A veteran United Airlines Captain has received a one-year suspended prison sentence and has been banned from flying for 12 months after he was arrested at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport on Sunday on suspicion of being six times over the legal alcohol limit.
The 63-year-old American pilot was taken off a United Airlines Boeing 777 by Gendarmes and taken into custody after he failed an alcohol breathalyzer test, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The police said they found the pilot with a “pasty mouth, glassy eyes and difficulties in expressing himself”. At the police station, the Captain had a blood test which found that he had 0.59mg/l and 0.56mg/l of alcohol in his system, which is six times the limit for flight crew in France.
The pilot was due to operate on United Airlines flight UA331 to Washington DC, but he was arrested just an hour before departure, and the flight had to be cancelled at the last minute.
United Airlines operated the same aircraft back to Dulles on Monday afternoon.
The unnamed pilot was held in custody until Tuesday evening at the conclusion of the hastily arranged court case. The judges in the case said they doubted the pilot’s account that he had consumed just two glasses of wine the night before his arrest.
Along with the suspended prison sentence, the man has been fined €4,500 and banned from flying for one year – although this only applies to France.
In a statement, a spokesperson for United told us: “The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We hold all our employees to the highest standards and have a strict no-tolerance policy for alcohol.”
“This employee was immediately removed from service, and we are fully cooperating with local authorities.”
Last month, a 62-year-old Delta Air pilot was arrested at Edinburgh Airport on suspicion of being over the legal alcohol limit.
In 2018, a Japan Airlines pilot was sentenced to 10 months in jail after he allegedly cheated a mandatory alcohol test before being stopped by police at Heathrow Airport in London.
First Officer Katsutoshi Jitsukawa allegedly drank two bottles of wine and over a litre and a half of beer the night before he was due to work, tipping him over the prescribed limit.
Under Europe’s generous flight cancellation and delay regulations, which are known as EC261, passengers could claim up to €600 for a significant arrival delay. Airlines can only avoid paying out compensation if they can prove that that delay or cancellation was due to an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ although the courts have found that an issue with the flight crew (like an arrest) isn’t normally extraordinary enough.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.