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United Airlines Pilot Banned for Intoxication on Transatlantic Flight

United Airlines

A United Airlines pilot has been banned from flying for a year by a Paris court after attempting to fly while intoxicated on a transatlantic flight from Paris’ Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport. The 63-year-old captain, identified as Henry W., was removed from the Boeing 777 aircraft after failing a breathalyzer test, which revealed he was six times over the legal blood alcohol limit. The captain was given a six-month suspended sentence and a €4,500 ($5,000) fine by the French court for his unprofessional actions.

Incidents of Intoxication Rare, But Highlighting Concerning Nature of Alcohol Dependency in the Pilot Profession

While incidents of intoxication among pilots are rare, they highlight the concerning nature of alcohol dependency within the pilot profession. Airlines are quick to sanction and prevent pilot drunkenness to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members. United Airlines began cracking down on drunkenness in 2019 following an incident in which two pilots were spotted stumbling out of a pub several hours before they were scheduled to return to Newark. All United Airlines flight deck members are now required to have their last alcoholic drink at least 12 hours before reporting for duty.

United Airlines
Image by: Ronald Vermeulen via PLANESPOTTERS

Delta Air Lines Pilot Arrested at Edinburgh Airport for Refusing Breathalyzer Test

In June 2023, a Delta Air Lines pilot was arrested at Edinburgh Airport less than half an hour before departure and detained under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 for refusing to take a breathalyzer test. The pilot, identified as Lawrence Russell Jr., aged 61, was placed on remand by Scottish Police after refusing to enter a plea. Delta Air Lines is investigating the matter and cooperating with the authorities. The pilot in question has been removed from service pending the outcome of the investigation.

Strict Zero-Tolerance Policy Towards Drunkenness

United Airlines has a strict zero-tolerance policy towards drunkenness on the flight deck, and the safety of passengers and crew members is always their top priority. The company holds all employees to the highest standards and cooperates fully with local authorities in cases of unprofessional behavior. Following the incident in Paris, United Airlines confirmed that the pilot had been fired.

United Airlines
Image by: Jon Marzo via PLANESPOTTERS

The United Airlines pilot’s attempt to fly while intoxicated highlights the importance of airlines’ strict zero-tolerance policies towards alcohol consumption by flight deck members. Although incidents of intoxication among pilots are rare, they remain a significant concern for the aviation industry. To ensure the safety of passengers and crew members, airlines must continue to monitor and prevent pilot drunkenness, and airline policies must be strictly enforced.

What do you think airlines can do to prevent pilot intoxication and ensure passenger safety?

Also, you might be interested in reading: Why do pilot eats different food than the passengers?

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