RAAF flight attendant abused by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after special meal request
By Steve Lewis and Ian McPhedran
The Daily Telegraph
April 03, 2009 12:01am
KEVIN Rudd reduced a young female RAAF cabin attendant to tears with a tirade of abuse because he did not get a meal he wanted during a VIP flight.
The Prime Minister was forced to apologise for his behaviour, which appalled a number of senior Government officials.
An official report was filed by the flight crew about the behaviour of VIP No. 1 - Mr Rudd - after the flight from Port Moresby to Canberra in late January, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Mr Rudd, who had attended the Pacific Islands Forum, was told by the 23-year-old flight attendant that his request for a "special" meal - he is on a meat-free diet - could not be met.
Sources said the PM reacted "strongly" and a heated exchange followed. The attendant burst into tears and reported the matter to the senior cabin attendant.
She later composed herself and continued with the in-flight service.
"The crew were distressed but later in flight apologies were made by all," the report says.
It is believed Mr Rudd made a personal apology.
The PM's chief spin doctor, Lachlan Harris, initially tried to cover up the incident with a flat denial that it had even occurred.
But the report by the Commander of the VIP fleet, Group Capt Peter Wood, leaves no doubt about Mr Rudd's behaviour.
It says cabin crew on board the taxpayer-funded Boeing 737 VIP aircraft were not even aware of Mr Rudd's special meal request.
Mr Rudd has been losing weight and is on a non-red meat and fruit only dessert diet.
It is not the first unsavoury incident involving Mr Rudd and RAAF cabin crew.
During a flight between Sydney and Canberra last June he became "extremely irritated" when the only food on offer was gourmet sandwiches, rather than a hot meal, a source said.
The Boeing 737 VIP jet costs more than $28,000 an hour to run and the first-class service includes the best available food, wine, spirits and beer.
The Port Moresby-Canberra flight would have cost taxpayers about $150,000.
The flying visit to PNG included a "who's who" of senior public servants, who spent the return flight putting the finishing touches to the Government's $42 billion economic stimulus package.
Last year Mr Rudd admitted to not being a very careful eater after eating a dodgy pie at the footy.
"I don't pay a whole lot of attention to what I eat. When someone hands me something I stick it in my mouth, so there's a problem with that," he said.
And according to his wife Therese Rein he makes a "fierce" chocolate cake.
The Defence Department said it was not appropriate to comment on the service provided by No. 34 Squadron on its aircraft.
A spokesman for Mr Rudd, who is in London for the G20 Summit, said the PM was happy with the service.
"The Prime Minister travels on the special purpose aircraft all of the time and is very happy with the outstanding level of service provided by the dedicated members of the 34 Squadron," the spokesman said.
Air force flight attendants are paid between $47,000 and $68,000 a year and are required to display a high degree of courtesy and discretion and be able to work unsupervised.