Luxury in-flight dining firm slammed for “vindictive” campaign against whistleblower
A luxury in-flight dining firm has been blasted by a judge for a “vindictive” campaign against a whistleblower.
On Air Dining, which has served David Beckham pie and mash on a transatlantic flight, was ordered to give former executive Charles Robinson £80,000.
A tribunal heard Mr Robinson went off sick with stress and depression in 2017 after exposing an alleged fraud. It was said he had been asked to fake investors’ signatures on to documents.
Doctors confirmed he was unfit to return to work as chief operating officer but boss Daniel Hulme suspended him, withheld pay and lied to HMRC about his income so he would be taxed more, the hearing was told.
Mr Hulme also allegedly made a fake complaint to police that led to a raid on Mr Robinson’s house.
Mr Robinson, who went to Sandhurst elite military academy, was diagnosed with PTSD after the ordeal. The tribunal heard he and his wife separated temporarily because of the strain.
The boardroom row was described as “malicious and vindictive” and Mr Hulme was criticised for a “total lack of remorse and no apology for the distress that these matters caused”.
He and Mr Robinson had worked together at the firm, which uses Michelin-starred chefs to serve haute cuisine to multi-millionaires flying on private jets in and out of Stansted.
The East London tribunal awarded damages for unfair dismissal, breach of contract, unlawful deduction of wages and detriments for making public interest disclosures.
Judge Julia Jones said: “When Mr Hulme was cross-examined about the police raid in the liability hearing, the claimant was upset to see Mr Hulme treating it lightly.”
She said Mr Hulme “dealt with the allegation of fraud in a way that was unfair, unreasonable and knowingly detrimental to the claimant’s health”.”
On Air Dining says it caters for some of the richest people from Britain and around the world.
In a 2015 Channel 4 documentary The World’s Most Expensive Food, Mr Hulme revealed its typical bespoke meals from On Air Dining cost between £250 and £1,000 per head.
After the hearing Mr Robinson said: “I am glad to be exonerated and am looking forward to putting the experience behind me and getting on with my life.”
On Air boss Mr Hulme said: “At this stage the litigation is ongoing and subject to an appeal. We are also in the process of initiating separate court proceedings for the fraud allegations.
“Due to these circumstances it is inappropriate for the business to make detailed comment at present.”