Japan Airlines tightens alcohol rules for pilots after Heathrow arrest

Irving Hamilton
November 17, 2018

Figures show that you're safer traveling by plane than by vehicle, but presumably your chances of a safe flight are reduced if your pilot is drunk.

According to the BBC, Japan Airlines has had 19 incidents since August past year in which pilots failed the carrier's own alcohol tests, with 12 flights being delayed as a result (other pilots were found for the other seven).

Another survey found that eight of Japan's 25 airlines do not require pilots to take breathalyser tests before flying, while a dozen that do have that requirement use simple devices that are reportedly less sensitive.

Passengers were told the delays were due to "crew health conditions", and staff made no mention of alcohol levels.

Japan Airlines (JAL) pilots have failed breathalyser tests on 19 occasions since August a year ago, Japanese media reported, as the country's flagship carrier reels from the recent arrest of a co-pilot who was nearly 20 times over the alcohol limit.

After JAL and All Nippon Airlines (ANA) group pilots were separately found drinking excessively before flights last month, both companies submitted reports to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry yesterday, explaining the circumstances and preventive measures.

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Japan now bans pilots from drinking in the eight hours before they fly - the same as in the U.S. The U.S., however, also sets a bloodstream alcohol limit for pilots that is half the threshold for drivers.

On Wednesday, the Japanese low-priced carrier Skymark said a morning domestic flight was delayed after alcohol was detected on the breath of the plane's pilot.

"We feel deeply responsible for causing the (Jitsukawa) incident that should never have happened", said Japan Airlines President Yuji Akasaka at a press conference after the meetings.

Yet Japan Airlines isn't the only carrier in the country to have pilots with drink issues.

Japan Airlines had a 12-hour no-drinking rule in place, but has now provisionally extended that to 24 hours.

In July, Japan Airlines received an award for the best economy seat at the prestigious Skytrax World Airline awards, widely regarded as the aviation industry's equivalent of the Oscars.

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