How Drunken Japan Airlines Pilot’s Big Night In Dallas Cancelled A Flight To Tokyo Last Week

A Japan Airlines flight from Dallas to Tokyo was canceled last week after its 49-year-old captain was reported for drunken and disruptive behavior at his layover hotel. Police were called.

Japan Airlines

The pilot had arrived from Tokyo on Monday, and he dined and drank with other crewmembers starting around 6 p.m. Things got rowdy, and hotel staff warned crew about their noise levels.

His continued drinking in the hotel lounge and later in his room. Other guests complained about the noise. By 2 a.m. Tuesday, hotel staff called the police. They issued a warning.

The captain says he didn’t violate ‘twelve hours bottle-to-throttle’ and didn’t realize he was over the .04 legal limit to fly. Without a replacement, the airline was forced to cancel Wednesday’s 11:05 a.m. flight 11 to Haneda. The flight’s 157 passengers were rebooked.

DFW Airport

Last June a Delta flight was cancelled when the captain was arrested for intoxication. This happens infrequently, but isn’t unheard of. In 2019 United pilots flying out of Glasgow to Newark were arrested on intoxication charges and a fully-boarded Delta flight from Minneapolis was cancelled due to an intoxicated pilot. Of course United flight from London was also once delayed to remove a drunk air marshal.

Drinking by pilots is a very sensitive subject. American Airlines was even forced to apologize when their outsource inflight magazine depicted pilots mixing cocktails.

Air travel can be a difficult career and drinking and other substance problems get hidden. Pilots with substance abuse problems are often 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. non-event. The flight wasn’t until Wednesday. Plenty of time to sleep it off the whole of Tuesday.

    no penalty.

    over-sensitive folks.

  2. I can only imagine the trouble he will be in considering the work culture in Japan. They take that stuff serious. I was on a train last year that arrived two minutes late. The conductor jumped out as soon as we stopped and apologized to everyone as we stepped off the train.

  3. This is JAL being over cautious
    The pilot wasn’t flying till the following day and had time to metabolize the alcohol.

  4. From the Japan Times…. “The hotel warned him about the noise, and he stopped drinking. But the hotel called police at around 2 a.m. Tuesday due to his shouting.

    The captain did not violate JAL’s regulations against drinking alcohol within 12 hours of boarding. But the company decided to cancel the flight because it had to check the physical and mental conditions of the captain and needed time to arrange a replacement.

    The captain was quoted as saying that he did not notice he was drunk.”

    These few lines make that story a lot clearer.

  5. Japan takes drinking seriously. They drink like crazy. But they also make sure that no one does anything important while drunk. Adopting their rules in the US would save thousands of lives.

  6. He’s just another normal Japanese.

    This hotel employee definitely have never been to Japan and exaggerated the seriousness. If he works at a hotel in Japan, he probably will call the police every 5 minutes. It’s really normal at Japan that everyone drinks a lot, even ladies.

  7. @ Tym Dunn

    That’s hilarious, didn’t you mean “Premium” Delta pilots, drinking “Premium” alcohol on a “Premium” Delta layover.

Comments are closed.