A New Zealand native was fined and now has lost his job after berating a British Airways flight attendant of Indian descent for waking him up and demanding to be served by a white flight attendant. Once again, we have a case study in the perils of alcohol overconsumption while flying.
It was time for meal service and Peter Nelson was woken up on a British Airways flight from London to Rio de Janeiro by flight attendant Sima Patel-Pryke. Nelson became incensed and loudly yelled:
You Asians think you are better than us, I don’t want to be served by you lot, I’ve paid your wages for the last 20 years.
He then demanded to be served by a “white girl” and that he did not want to see Patel-Pryke again. Irate and boisterous, the crew prepared to use its restraining kits (zip ties) to restrain him, though that was ultimately not necessary.
The flight occurred in June 2018, but it was only this week that a jury delivered a unanimous verdict against Nelson, who was charged with one count of racially aggravated abuse.
Nelson will “only” be hit with a £2,000 fine, £500 of which will go to Patel-Pryke and £1,500 to court costs. But Nelson has also lost his job.
Nelson was on a business trip to Brazil for GlaxoSmithKline, who has fired him. He and his family are now considering leaving the United Kingdom and returning to New Zealand.
Judge Affirms Jury Verdict
Judge Edward Connell accepted the jury’s verdict and added:
You plainly displayed a contemptuous attitude towards the staff from the outset, when Ms Pryke, simply doing her job, came to wake you in order to take your food order.
You took immediate offense at her having the audacity in your view to wake you up.
It seems that that was the beginnings of what turned out to be on your part an opportunity for you to get very upset without any justification at all.
That manifested itself in the most unpleasant of ways.
It was thoroughly unpleasant period of conduct by you; such was your conduct that members of staff were called to deal with you and they had cause to contact the pilot.
It’s quite plain albeit this wasn’t the most serious case the court hears, that it had an impact on Ms Pryke who we heard in evidence was upset and ended up in tears because of your behavior.
It was completely unacceptable and I’m entirely satisfied that it was contributed by that you had drunk a significant amount of alcohol during the course of that flight.
I accept this conviction will have profound ramifications for you and your employability so I’m just persuaded that this can be dealt with with a financial penalty.
These stories are so sad, because they are so unnecessary. Whether you believe his punishment fits the crime, is far too harsh, or not harsh enough, the catalyst was alcohol, even though the underlying sin was racism. Next time you feel like that extra drink in business class to “unwind” or “get your money’s worth” consider water instead. Because a few seconds of drunken range can ruin your career. Just ask Nelson.