American Airlines Cancels Transatlantic Flight Due to Drunk Pilot, Everyone Entitled to Over $500 Apiece

When the first officer of the Exxon Valdez first told Captain Joseph Hazelwood about being ‘on the rocks’ he said “no thanks matey, I’ll have mine straight up.”

The 62 year old American Airlines pilot scheduled to fly today’s Manchester – Philadelphia flight AA735 didn’t fall off the jetbridge but in an apparent homage to his carrier’s transpacific joint venture partner Japan Airlines he was arrested “on suspicion of performing an aviation function when over the prescribed limit of alcohol.”

The flight was cancelled, passengers were rebooked, and the pilot was released on bail.

Shortly before 11am today, police received a report that an airline pilot may have been under the influence of alcohol at Manchester Airport.

Officers attended and a 62-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of performing an aviation function when over the prescribed limit of alcohol.

Confronted with this as proof that American Airlines does, in fact, offer predeparture beverages a spokesperson says “Safety is our highest priority and we apologise to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans, we have rebooked them on alternative flights.”

American‘s priority of course may be safety, but the pilot’s priority could have been getting so tanked he thought he was Gary Busey trying to explain who really killed Bruce Lee.

I asked what was being done for customers and was told that everyone on the flight is being offered 15,000 miles. Of course that is separate from the compensation that passengers are entitled to under EU Regulation 261/2004. It’s unlikely that any of the passengers made it to their destination in under three hours.

As I wrote last week when a Delta pilot departing Amsterdam was found to be three times the legal limit, pilots with an alcohol problem may be wary of speaking up and seeking help, for fear of being sidelined, despite programs designed to encourage them to do so.

Pilots hide not just alcohol abuse but mental health conditions and that points to a fundamental conundrum: you want pilots to be open and seek help in order to promote safety, but once they’re open they’re a clearly identified risk and get removed from the cockpit. So the consequences of being open discourage that openness. Or at least that’s the fear many pilots have, not trusting any commitments to help rather than punish.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Objectively speaking, if I were a pilot, had an alcohol problem, and wanted help, I’d reach out to the program regardless. If I were punished outside of the terms of the program, I’d sue the airline’s ass off.

    However, I think emotionally, these people love flying and just don’t want to be sidelined at all, which of course would have to happen, even if there was intention to get their position back down the road.

    If all you do is fly, the idea of not doing it probably makes you want to drink even more to cope than you are already drinking. It’s a rough, complicated situation.

  2. When I first read the city pair my first thought was, why would a flight from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania get EU compensation. Took me a minute to realize it was the other Manchester.

  3. I suspect plenty of passengers could have gotten home around the same time—for example, just rerouting MAN-PHL-SFO to MAN-LHR-SFO. Could work for any destination with nonstops from DUB or LHR.

  4. If American (or any airline with EU 261 debts) were to delay payment until brexmaggedon would their responsibilities be enforced?

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