Japan Airlines said on Thursday one of its pilots was arrested by British police for drinking alcohol before a flight from London to Tokyo, leaving the airline to operate the flight with two pilots rather than the usual three.
JAL said the level of alcohol in the 42-year-old co-pilot’s system sharply exceeded the legal limit in Britain after drinking two bottles of wine and five cans of beer for six hours from 6pm the night before the flight to Haneda airport.
Toshinori Shin (centre), general manager of Japan Airlines’ Flight Operations Division, bows in apology at a press conference in Tokyo on November 1, 2018, after a JAL pilot was detained by British police for drinking alcohol before a flight from London to Tokyo.
JAL Flight 44’s departure from London at 7pm on Sunday local time was delayed by more than an hour.
The driver of a crew bus at Heathrow Airport noticed the smell of alcohol on the co-pilot’s breath and reported it to police, according to JAL.
The case came to light a day after All Nippon Airways apologised for five flight delays in Okinawa last week because a pilot was hung-over after a night of drinking.
In May, a JAL flight attendant was caught sneaking a beer into a plane toilet and drinking it there mid-flight.
The transport ministry on Thursday issued a document directing all Japanese airlines to report by end of the month measures being taken to control drinking by flight crew.
Taiwanese carrier fires pilot who failed alcohol test taken before flight to Hong Kong
JAL normally operates long-haul routes connecting Japan with the United States or Europe with three pilots in the cockpit – two captains and a co-pilot – so they can take breaks.
Under its internal rules, JAL limits two-pilot flights to routes of up to 12 hours. From Haneda, it takes about 12 hours, 30 minutes to fly to London, but 11 hours and 45 minutes for the return flight.
For the London-Haneda flight, the airline operates the route with three pilots on board although the flying time is under 12 hours, SCMP reports.