Flight attendants at American Airlines have been told to avoid using medicines like NyQuil within at least eight hours a flight over fears that it could lead to a positive alcohol test result, which would then lead to potential termination from the airline.
NyQuil cold and flu nighttime relief liquid contains 10% alcohol, and many other popular over-the-counter cold, flu and cough medicines also contain alcohol. It may seem like an unusual ingredient, but alcohol is said to help dissolve the active ingredients in the medicine.
The warning came in a recent update from the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) which represents crew members at the Fort Worth-based carrier over the risk of taking medicines that could ‘compromise’ the ability of flight attendants to carry out their duties.
While the union didn’t list any specific medications, popular cold and flu relief medicines which contain alcohol could, the memo warned, lead to a positive test result.
Flight attendants are subject to random alcohol and drug testing, and officials don’t consider the reason for a positive test result, just that the result was positive.
It’s not just OTC medicines available on pharmacy shelves in the US that flight attendants should be cautious of, however. The union has also advised its members to stay clear of medicines the can get hold of during foreign layovers which could contain unlisted or unregulated ingredients that could lead to a positive test result.
Even physician-prescribed medicines should be taken with caution and flight attendants have been reminded to warn their prescribers of their safety-related role to avoid being given a medicine that could impair their ability to do the job.
Earlier this year, flight attendants at United Airlines were warned to steer clear of popular CBD products, even if they contain very low levels of THC, because consuming these products could result in a positive drug test which would lead to their termination.
Although most CBD products claim to be free of the psychoactive substance THC, some producers are allowed to sell hemp-derived cannabinoids containing up to 0.3% THC.
Federal law still prohibits flight attendants from consuming marijuana, and drug tests look out for the presence of THC as an indication of marijuana consumption.
Indian authorities are seeking to ban pilots from using everyday products like mouthwash and aftershave that might contain alcohol as an ingredient because these common products could trigger a false-positive result in an alcohol test.
In reality, it’s unlikely that spritzing yourself with perfume is going to result in a false-positive result, but the rule change will close a loophole that allowed flight crew to explain away a positive alcohol result.
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.