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Sex, pleasure and 'free' fly! Read on...

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 18:18 IST

National carrier Air New Zealand has launched an investigation into allegations that flight staff exchanged travel privileges for sex with prostitutes, airline officials said.

News magazine "Investigate" reported in a recent edition that an unspecified number of airline workers had abused a program that allows staff to buy heavily discounted fares but prohibits them from using the tickets for any commercial gain.

Under airline staff discounts, staff can buy unbooked seats at as little as 10 percent of the full fare, and can use a "Buddy Fare" for a companion to travel anywhere in the world on the airline up to four times a year.

According to the article, some Air New Zealand staff used the Buddy Fares and discounted tickets as payment for sex with prostitutes.

Vanessa Stoddart, Air New Zealand's group general manager for human resources, said staff were not allowed to use the program for commercial gain and that the claims in the article would be investigated.

"Staff travel is a privilege and not a right," Stoddart said in a statement.

Stoddart said misuse of the program was "extremely rare" and was treated with the "same degree of gravity as any other breach of company policy."

The carrier is 82 percent owned by the New Zealand government.