Two members of Qatar Airways cabin crew were arrested yesterday at Helsinki Airport (HEL) according to Finnish authorities. Police arrested the two male cabin crew members just before 8.30am after airport workers raised concerns that the flight attendants were drunk. Both men were detained on suspicion of being guilty of air traffic drunkenness and taken to the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department near Helsinki Airport.
The two flight attendants had been due to work Qatar Airways flight QR304 to Doha which is operated by an Airbus A350-900. The roughly five and a half hour flight was meant to depart Helsinki at just before 10am but was subsequently delayed over 12-hours so that replacement crew members could be flown in. The flight eventually arrived back in Doha at just before 4am this morning.
One of the arrested cabin crew was said to be the head purser of the flight while the other was an operating crew member. It’s not known how long the two men had been working for the Doha-based airline but a spokesman for Qatar Airways confirmed that two staff members had been accused of being over the permitted alcohol limit.
“Qatar Airways can confirm that flight QR304 from Helsinki to Doha on Tuesday, April 16th experienced a delayed departure due to two staff members allegedly found to be over the permitted alcohol limit,” the spokesperson told us in a written email.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our passengers and we made the necessary arrangements for them to be accommodated during this delay,” the statement continued.
“Safety & Security are our highest priority and the airline has a zero tolerance approach to any legal violations. We will be working closely with the local authorities on this matter.”
Finland has strict drink flying rules and all members of aircrew including pilots and cabin crew are banned from drinking any alcohol within 12-hours of operating a flight. Police have the power to conduct random breath tests on aircrew and airport workers are encouraged to report crew members who they suspect might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Last year, the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat claimed an increasing number of Finnish cabin crew had a drinking problem, saying that cases unearthed at Finnair were just “the tip of the iceberg”. Finnair says it takes a zero-tolerance approach to drunkenness and aircrew who come into work drunk face immediate dismissal – a similar fate will no doubt face the cabin crew from Qatar Airways.
In 2015, the then vice president of customer experience at Qatar Airways sent an email to cabin crew criticising the drunkenness of some flight attendants during their time off in Doha. The email contained a photo of a young female cabin crew member who was slumped on the floor at the entrance to her apartment complex after a heavy drinking session in Qatar’s capital.
Rossen Dimitrov said he was “ashamed and disturbed” by the woman’s behaviour and asked staff how Qatar Airways could “change rules” if staff did not act in a mature way. The airline has previously come under fire for its treatment of staff, including mandatory curfews, restrictions on staffers getting married and claims the airline sacked female cabin crew who became pregnant.
Qatar Airways says it has reformed many of these rules although serving crew still claim there is a “hire and fire” culture where crew are afraid to speak out.