A Virgin Australia flight attendant who was falsely accused of performing a sex act on a passenger says the claims have ‘destroyed his life’.
Seao Loli was sacked following the alleged incident in 2018, after fellow flight attendants claimed they heard ‘strange slurping sounds’ from the rear galley.
He has since been awarded $20,000 for wrongful dismissal, after New Zealand’s employment relations authority found there was not ‘sufficient information’ to support the allegation.
Breaking his silence over the claims, Mr Loli revealed he plans to appeal the decision, saying the incident has ruined his reputation.
Virgin Australia has destroyed my life and the Employment Relations Authority has in their decision, condoned that,’ he told the New Zealand Herald.
Seao Loli (pictured) claimed the allegations by his fellow Virgin Australia New Zealand staff had ‘destroyed his life’, after working for the company for ten years
The incident took place while he was working for Virgin Australia New Zealand, and had done so since 2008.
‘I keep asking – where is the justice in this outcome? Where is the justice in the very small remedy which I have been awarded?
‘Even now with the decision, it doesn’t let me go back to the life I had before.
‘Everything has changed.’
He called the allegations ‘horrific and baseless’ and accused his former employer of being ‘unscrupulous’.
The authority found Loli had been ‘unjustifiably’ suspended.
However, it did conclude that the attendant provided free beers to the passenger, even though he was not entitled to them.
The authority said there remained unanswered questions about what happened during the flight.
Flight attendants became suspicious after reportedly hearing the strange sounds, as well as claiming they caught Loli ‘in the act’, the employment authority said.
‘Clearly Mr Loli was in a situation, behind curtains with a passenger for an extended period, which could raise questions but questions are not enough,’ the judgement added.
But Mr Loli insisted he was simply talking to a passenger about his acting work in Samoa, for which he is ‘known’, saying talking to customers was ‘part of the job’.
Mr Loli was also accused of preventing another flight attendant from coming into the galley to go about her duties.
He was told about the allegations in June 2018 but strongly denied them, adding he was ‘shocked and very distressed’ to hear of them.
The flight attendant was accused of performing a sex act on a passenger during a Virgin Australia flight (pictured, a check-in desk on April 21 in Brisbane)
The attendant was then reportedly suspended for two weeks without being given a chance to respond.
The employment authority found that VANZ did not meet its obligations before the suspension.
VANZ are said to have investigated further and tried to meet with Loli and his legal representatives, but were unable to find a suitable time.
The company then reportedly terminated his employment in September 2018 by email.
Loli argued that there were inconsistencies between the statements of the two flight attendants who had accused him.
In its conclusion, the employment authority supported Loli’s case, finding that the sex act allegation was ‘not substantiated’.
They added that there were ‘procedural inadequacies’ in the airline’s investigation.
The airline was ordered to pay Loli £1,192 ($2,435) for lost wages during the suspension, £3,558 ($7,267) for wages lost during the dismissal, and £4,896 ($10,000) as compensation for non-economic loss.
The case comes as Virgin Australia went into administration after suffering huge loses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Virgin Australia New Zealand (VANZ) staff member Seao Loli was accused in February 2018 after colleagues claimed they heard ‘strange slurping sounds’