Twelve flights operated by Japan Airlines Co. were delayed over the past 15 months because pilots failed to pass preflight alcohol tests, company officials said Thursday.
There were also seven other cases during the period dating back to August 2017 during which pilots exceeded the alcohol limit set by the company but did not cause flight delays, they said.
The replacement of pilots and additional tests resulted in delays of up to 71 minutes in one case, the officials said.
The revelation came after a spate of incidents in which personnel from JAL, All Nippon Airways Co. and Skymark Airlines Inc. breached rules on alcohol, prompting the government to crack down on drinking by airline pilots.
JAL does not allow its pilots to board the aircraft if they blow over the alcohol limit of 0.1 milligram per liter in mandatory testing.
The 12 flight delays involved eight pilots and four co-pilots whose alcohol levels ranged from 0.12 mg to 0.25 mg. Following repeated testing, four were cleared to fly and carried out their scheduled duties, the officials said.
Two of the affected flights were international flights.
All 12 delays occurred after JAL introduced new testing equipment last summer that has pilots blow into a straw attached to a measuring device instead of breathing onto a sensor.
JAL said earlier this month that a co-pilot was arrested by British police for being about 10 times over the legal limit under British aviation law after he drank two bottles of wine and five cans of beer the night before his London to Tokyo flight on Oct. 28. Although the flight departed more than an hour behind schedule, it is not counted among the 12 flight delays, the officials said.
That incident came to light the day after ANA apologized for delays in Okinawa on Oct. 25 involving five flights after a pilot was found to be unwell after consuming alcohol.
On Wednesday, Skymark Airlines said its 8:40 a.m. flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Sapporo was delayed for 23 minutes after alcohol was detected on the breath of the plane’s American pilot.
According to Skymark, the 49-year-old pilot, who was scheduled to take charge of Flight 705, tested positive for alcohol in a test conducted about 50 minutes before departure.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has instructed JAL and ANA to report by Friday on what measures they are taking to prevent heavy drinking by airline crew members. It has also decided to hold an expert panel meeting this month to tighten drinking rules.