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Airline Ordered to Rehire Pilot Fired for Sex With Flight Attendant

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A Court of Appeal in New Zealand has ruled in favor of an Air Nelson pilot who had sex with a flight attendant during an unscheduled stopover in 2008, local media reported on Tuesday.

Air Nelson Bombardier Dash 8-Q300 at Napier Airport

An Air Nelson Bombardier Dash 8-Q300 at Napier Airport.

The unidentified pilot was previously fired after having sex with one of the flight attendants after a night of drinking at a hotel in Napier, a city on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The crew was forced to spend the night there in May 2008 after an unscheduled stopover.

But the flight attendant said she had no memory of the encounter and claimed the sex happened without her consent. The pilot, meanwhile, insisted that the 19-year-old woman left his hotel room with ‘a smile on her face’.

On Tuesday, according to the Stuff.co.nz news portal, a Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the pilot and rejected an attempt by Air Nelson to challenge an earlier Employment Court decision which criticized the airline’s handling of the pilot’s dismissal and ordering he be reinstated.

“Air Nelson remains disappointed that the Employment Court in its judgment sets a far lower standard of expectation on the behavior and professional standards of pilots than the airline,” a company statement said following the ruling, Stuff reported.

The statement added: “The Court of Appeal decision declining Air Nelson’s request once again highlights the very high threshold facing employers when trying to review Employment Court judgments believed to be erroneous. The process does not allow factual findings to be challenged.”

Lawyer John Haigh QC, who is defending the pilot, said it is now up to the airline to reinstate him. Air Nelson previously claimed it would not be possible to reinstate the pilot because flight crews are aware of the incident and this may have damaged their confidence in him.

However, the Appeals Court agreed with the Employment Court’s conclusion that ‘this evidence was exaggerated’, Stuff reported. Air Nelson was also ordered to pay the pilot’s costs in the Appeals Court.

Air Nelson, a subsidiary of Air New Zealand, is a regional airline based in Nelson. It operates services on provincial routes under the Air New Zealand Link brand and operates only 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft.

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  • well what’s the big fuss, it’s not like he had sex during the flight