Japan Airways (JAL) has requested that Aussie Olympians be accompanied by a liaison while flying with the airline to help maintain “discipline” in the cabin.
The request follows reports that members of the Olyroos and the Australian rugby sevens teams were alleged to have been “heavily intoxicated” and behaving inappropriately on a JAL flight last Thursday.
Both Rugby Australia and Football Australia have launched investigations after the airline complained to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) about the athlete’s behaviour and “strongly requested” it to prevent it from happening again.
Rugby Australia told Travel Weekly its investigation revealed members of the men’s rugby sevens team were “drinking excessive amounts of alcohol” and being disruptive to the cabin crew and other passengers during the flight.
The company said the team had been reprimanded and certain team members would undergo education and counselling sessions regarding behaviour and alcohol consumption.
“This behaviour is entirely unacceptable and not befitting any athlete who represents Australia or aspires to do so,” Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos said.
“Whilst we acknowledge the disappointment experienced through their Olympic campaign as well as the challenging environment all athletes have had to deal with since the start of the pandemic, this is not an excuse for this behaviour.”
AOC chief Matt Carroll said there were a number of athletes from other sports on the flight but the two football codes had taken full responsibility for the incident.
He said that while the airline had made no official complaint, the behaviour of the athletes was “unacceptable”.
However, JAL told Travel Weekly a local representative of the airline had reported the situation verbally to the AOC and has since followed up in writing.
The airline issued the AOC with a list of requests that paint a disappointing picture of the athlete’s behaviour during their 10-hour flight back to Australia.
JAL asked the AOC to ensure Olympians travel with a nominated liaison to “assist the crew in maintaining discipline in the cabin”.
The airline asked the committee to make sure athletes don’t drink duty-free alcohol during flights or consume “excessive amounts of alcohol” and said its crew reserve the right to stop serving alcohol to those who are drunk or show “undesirable behaviour”.
It also asked that athletes behave in line with “normal societal expectations”, wear a mask at all times when not eating or drinking, follow crew instructions and show respect to the crew and other passengers.
The airline told the AOC that it will hand passengers over to the Australian Federal Police if “undesirable behaviour” continues.
“Being drunk affects other passengers and interferes with the crew’s ability to do their job,” the airline said.
The AOC said in a statement it has put “arrangements” in place with JAL including ensuring athletes are accompanied by a liaison on future returning flights.
It is not clear if the airline’s requests relate directly to the athlete’s behaviour or if they are simply a reminder. However, according to Japan Today, witnesses said some of the players refused to follow instructions from the cabin crew and allegedly raided the galley for alcohol.
It is also being reported that several athletes vomited in the plane’s toilet, rendering it inoperable for some of the flight.
“Obviously, they weren’t wearing their masks as they were drinking all the time,” one passenger told The Daily Telegraph.
Rugby Australia claims there is no evidence that any JAL property was damaged or that any mess left behind was made by the rugby sevens team.
An Australian rugby player defended the athletes’ actions and said “reputations and contracts are on the line”, according to The Australian.
“People are allowed to be sick, that’s what sick bags are for,” the player, who was not named by The Australian, said, adding that the allegations were “stressing everyone out”.
“If someone was sick, it would not be the first time, who cares?
“Who cares who f**king threw up, it’s not World War III? Why is rugby being dragged through the mud?”
Featured image source: iStock/danieldep