Aer Lingus 'justified' in sacking steward who took cannabis
A FORMER Aer Lingus flight attendant who became delusional during a transatlantic flight after he ate a cookie laced with marijuana has had a claim that he was unfairly dismissed from the airline rejected.
Miguel Saez Sanchez (32) believed there were fleas and lice on his face and that passengers were taking photographs and laughing at him after the flight took off from San Francisco in March, 2009.
He had also been taking diet pills in the run-up to the flight, which are banned in the Aer Lingus cabin-crew manual, an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) hearing into the matter heard earlier this year.
Mr Sanchez, of Avondale Square, Dunboyne, Co Meath, had flown to San Francisco five days earlier and had decided to spend his time off with friends in Los Angeles where he unwittingly ate a cookie with cannabis in it during a party towards the end of his stay.
The next day, when he turned up for work, he became emotional on board the plane and thought he was being photographed by passengers who he suspected were "plants" from Aer Lingus.
He was subsequently dismissed from the airline following the incident. While Mr Sanchez admitted some of his actions and behaviours were wrong, he said the dismissal was too harsh.
He had not initially told another member of the cabin crew that he had consumed the cookie as almost 24 hours had passed and he did not feel any adverse reaction. He had used marijuana once before in Amsterdam when he was 19, and never again because of the way it had affected him.
In a verdict released yesterday, the EAT said he had been aware of the bouts of hallucinations and paranoia that he suffered and failed to tell management at the airline this before he got on the flight.
"The fact that he reported for duty against this backdrop of events was serious," a judgement from the tribunal said.
"The tribunal believes that by his acts and omissions, the claimant was guilty of serious misconduct."
The airline no longer had trust in Mr Sanchez to carry out his duties after the event, the tribunal said. The EAT criticised some features of the disciplinary procedures which followed the event and led to the dismissal but said they were not serious enough to render the final judgement unfair.
During the hearing, lawyers for Aer Lingus said Mr Sanchez had cut himself off from travelling on a plane in any role other than as a passenger.
He had previously been disciplined by the airline for misbehaviour prior to this incident.
"Taken in conjunction with his previous employment record, the decision of the respondent to dismiss the claimant was justified," the judgment said.