KUALA LUMPUR: The Industrial Court has dismissed an unfair dismissal claim brought by a pilot against an airline on grounds that he suffered from anxiety.
Industrial Court chairman Eswary Maree said the termination of the pilot’s service by AirAsia X Bhd in October 2019, two-and-a-half years after he joined the airline, was with just cause and excuse, given that he suffered from anxiety.
Eswary said passengers entrust their lives to the airline, which has a duty to ensure that its pilots comply with the highest standards of health and safety.
She said the company had provided the claimant, whose name is being withheld, with extensive support for over a year, including medical leave, re-designation, repeated assessments and training.
However, his anxiety persisted and resurfaced during training.
“Continued employment posed risks and the company could not reasonably be expected to accept such a situation. As an airline, the company’s paramount duty was ensuring air safety,” she said in a 31-page award released last week.
Eswary said it was not up to the claimant to assess his own condition and performance and make a unilateral determination that his issues were “minor”.
“Indeed, based on the contemporaneous evidence presented before this court, he was unfit to resume his flight duties,” she said.
The claimant, represented by Francis Pereira and Arief Salim, had contended that he was subjected to “assessment after assessment”.
Easwary found that the assessments and training sessions were necessary to ascertain his fitness and suitability to resume flying commercially.
She said the additional training sessions were recommended and carried out as his performance did not meet the standards required of the company.
She said the assessments and training sessions were recommended by a clinical psychologist in June 2019, after the claimant resumed work, as his anxiety was only apparent at work.
“The company could not treat lightly the claimant’s fitness to resume flying, including his mental state, for fear of the safety of everyone on board,” she said.
The company, represented by Sebastian Tay and Rebecca Sonali Alfred, said it had scheduled further training sessions to address all issues.
Easwary said the training sessions held between August and September 2019 revealed that the claimant continued to experience issues in dealing with radio calls, landing and anxiety.
She said the claimant was informed at a meeting on Oct 15, 2019 that the continued issues related to anxiety could lead to termination.
The company, she said, had been genuine in its efforts to assist the claimant with the aim of helping him get back on track and resume flying commercially.
Despite these efforts, his condition continued to impact his performance as a pilot.
She said that after the claimant declined an opportunity to take part in a training session, his actions left the company with no alternative but to terminate his service with effect from Oct 23, 2019, paying him three months’ salary in lieu of notice.
The pilot had joined the company on April 3, 2017.