Japan Airlines has allegedly ordered its entire workforce of 32,000 employees to forego alcohol until at least the New Year after several embarrassing incidents which have raised concerns about an endemic drink culture at the airline. In the last few weeks, one of the carrier’s pilots was jailed in the United Kingdom after trying to operate a flight while nine times over the permitted alcohol limit. In the last few days, an internal investigation found that a member of cabin crew had been drinking whilst on duty.
In the latest incident, the veteran flight attendant who has more than 23-years flying experience with the airline failed two breathalyser tests after colleagues smelt alcohol on her breath. Cabin crew became suspicious after finding a small empty bottle of sparkling wine which is normally reserved for Premium Economy passengers hidden away in one of the galleys.
The flight attendant had passed a separate breathalyser test on the ground before departure but claimed the positive result for alcohol was the result of her using mouthwash to freshen her breath during the flight. The airline was said it suspects the cabin crew member had been drinking alcohol during a separate flight in November 2017.
According to The Independent newspaper, the airline’s head of cabin crew Yuji Akasaka and Eri Abe have taken a pay cut of 20% and 10% respectively as a way to show remorse and take responsibility for the actions of their staff. A similar pay cut (a not unheard occurrence in Japenese corporate culture) was taken by the airline’s President following the conviction of First Officer Katsutoshi Jitsukawa.
Jitsukawa had drunk more than two bottles of wine the night before he was due to operate flight back from London Heathrow to Tokyo. The 42-year old pilot apparently cheated a pre-flight breathalyser test but airport security officers called police after smelling alcohol on his breath.
The case shone a spotlight on current Japenese aviation rules which simply prohibit crew from drinking within a set time-limit of a flight. In the wake of these scandals, Japan Airlines now prohibits crew from drinking alcohol within 24-hours of a flight. There’s talk of extending the time limit further and even introducing a zero blood alcohol limit.
At official holiday parties organised by the airline, it’s been reported that only non-alcoholic drinks were served.