Japan Airlines Co. said 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 normal three.
JAL said the level of alcohol in the 42-year-old copilot’s system sharply exceeded the legal limit in Britain after drinking two bottles of wine and five cans of beer for six hours from 6 p.m. the night before the flight to Haneda airport.
JAL Flight 44’s departure from London at 7 p.m. on Sunday local time was delayed by over an hour.
The driver of a crew bus at Heathrow Airport noticed the smell of alcohol on the copilot’s breath and reported it to police, according to JAL.
The case came to light a day after All Nippon Airways Co. apologized for five flight delays in Okinawa last week because a pilot became unwell after a night of drinking.
In May, a JAL flight attendant was caught sneaking a beer into a plane restroom and drinking it there in mid-flight.
The transport ministry Thursday issued a document directing all Japanese airlines to report by month-end measures being taken to control drinking by flight staff.
JAL normally operates long-haul routes connecting Japan with the United States or Europe with three pilots in the cockpit — two captains and a copilot — so that they can take breaks in turn.
Under its internal rules, JAL limits two-pilot flights to routes of up to 12 hours. From Haneda, it takes about 12 hours and 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 aboard although the flying time is under 12 hours.
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