Does Japan Have a Drunk Pilot Problem?

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These Japanese carriers have a history with intoxicated pilots.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) released a statement Saturday claiming a co-pilot of Air Japan, its subsidiary, was halted from flying after he failed to pass an alcohol check before boarding. Last Thursday, the pilot reportedly consumed over twice the company’s set alcohol limit. Before boarding the next day, he was given a random pre-flight breathalyzer test and failed. ANA said the pilot had not planned on disclosing the fact that he had been drinking the night before to them before he boarded the plane, which was scheduled to fly from Narita International Airport to Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday. According to The Japan Times, “The pilot started drinking vodka at home before 5 pm and the company contacted him around 7:40 pm to request that he be on the flight.” Once the results of the test confirmed he was incapable of working, he was replaced with another pilot. Unfortunately, this is not the first case of its kind.

Similar Occurrences

Last month, five flights and 677 passengers were delayed after a pilot for ANA’s domestic branch, ANA Wings, failed a breathalyzer test. The flight from Osaka to Miyazaki, the capital city of Miyazaki Prefecture, was forced to switch crews. Per reports, airline officials claimed the pilot initially told them he consumed two 350-milliliter cans of highball cocktails in his hotel room, but it was later revealed he actually drank 1.2 liters of beer and an alcoholic drink served to him in a restaurant. This announcement came on the heels of an incident that occurred in October, where another ANA pilot delayed five flights after he consumed too much booze in Okinawa and deemed himself too hungover to fly. That same month, a Japan Airlines co-pilot was arrested after drinking more than 10 times the legal limit the night before a London-Tokyo flight.

How Does This Affect Your Trip to Japan?

Between this and the recent omen spotted on Japan’s shores, a trip to the country may seem risky. But not to worry, both ANA  and Japan Airlines have announced that they would be implementing stricter pre-flight alcohol tests in response to recent incidents. ANA has even introduced newer, more accurate breathalyzers. “It is important to make preventive measures work effectively,” ANA President Yuji Hirako said in a 2018 news conference. Also, Japan’s government is now looking to make breathalyzer testing mandatory. Under Japanese law, pilots cannot consume alcohol eight hours before taking duty, but Japan Airlines has a set 12-hour drinking ban in place for its pilots. However, Japan Airlines has recently extended the ban to 24 hours. According to The Independent, while some airlines conduct random alcohol and drug checks, pilots and are typically breathalyzed if fellow staff are suspicious and fear they may have been drinking. Flyers should also be cautious and vigilant of any flight crew member who seems intoxicated and incapable of flying. If you see something, say something.