Flight attendants must be ‘ready and able’ to work. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian
Flight attendants must be ‘ready and able’ to work. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian

Qantas host’s $20,000 night out

A QANTAS flight attendant who was found vomiting into a toilet in a New York rooftop bar after drinking "two peach martinis and three gin and tonics" has lost a bid to get his job back.

Luke Urso filed an application for unfair dismissal after being sacked by the airline in November 2017. He allegedly breached Qantas policies requiring him to be "ready and able" to attend work the next day after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol while on "slip".

Mr Urso, who was working his first trip since returning to work from heart surgery, visited the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar with a fellow crew member on July 22. He maintained that the pair consumed the same five drinks but only he was affected.

"The fact that I became very ill as a result of these drinks does not mean that the quantity was excessive," he said in a letter to his employers. "I have never experienced such a negative reaction to the standard amount of alcohol that I consume. For this reason, I believe that my drink may have been spiked."

Mr Urso collapsed on the floor of the toilet and was taken to hospital, where he returned a blood alcohol concentration of 0.205 per cent. Medical experts said the reading suggested he had consumed around 14 standard drinks.

He was discharged at about 6am the next morning and called in sick, saying he was still feeling unwell and would not be able to operate the return flight to Los Angeles departing at 5:10pm that evening. He was stood down in August pending an investigation.

Luke Urso lost his ‘dream job’ with Qantas over one night out.
Luke Urso lost his ‘dream job’ with Qantas over one night out.

In his termination letter, Qantas said it had "formed the view that you have not been honest throughout this investigation in maintaining that your drink was spiked and you had not consumed more than five drinks".

"Significant consideration has also been given to the medical information in the Greenwich Hospital report which suggests that your drinks were not spiked, as well as … a comment made by the Doctor at Greenwich Hospital that 'There was no evidence of drink spiking'," it said.

Qantas noted that it had incurred hospital fees of approximately $20,000 "as a result of your substantiated misconduct". "The nature of the breaches of Qantas policies and manuals are extremely serious," the letter said.

In her decision, Fair Work Commission deputy president Lyndall Dean said it was "well established that in some circumstances an employee may be validly dismissed because of out of hours conduct".

"Mr Urso conducted himself in a manner which placed himself in a heavily intoxicated state," she said. "He consumed the alcohol voluntarily. In that context, the failure of Mr Urso to report to work because of his voluntary consumption of alcohol constitutes a valid reason for his dismissal."

Ms Dean said employees had an obligation to perform their duties in accordance with their contract. "Fundamental to these obligations is to be ready, willing and able to perform their duties at the relevant time," she said.

Even taking into consideration Mr Urso's unblemished record, passion for his "dream job", his offer to reimburse Qantas for the hospital fees and the financial impact of the dismissal - including potentially losing a $55,000 home loan deposit - Ms Dean said she was "unable to conclude that his dismissal was unfair".