Flight Attendant Fired for Being Drunk Inflight, Reading Her Book Upside Down

A British Airways flight attendant who tried to hide being drunk by keeping her nose in a book has been fired. She gave up the game because she was holding the book upside down.

She fell over on a travelator on her way to security check-in and said she had no memory of either collapsing or the events that followed.

The hearing was told that 53-year-old Miss Whitmore blamed her fall on the menopause and said she had suffered nothing more than “a funny turn.”

However, four members of airport staff said they could smell alcohol on her breath, with three of them independently saying they had seen her reading from an upside down book in an apparent attempt to cover her tracks.

(Emphasis mine.)

She was fired by BA. She appealed. She lost her appeal. Then she took her case to an employment tribunal. One claim was that while “she was seen swaying from side to side and stumbling ..dressed in her BA uniform, before she fell over” it was actually several hours before the flight she’d be working. And the officer who questioned her really smelled alcohol from a nearby bar, not her breath.

What’s more,

Miss Whitmore said she wasn’t aware she should have notified someone that she was going home and not getting on the 6.30pm flight to Heathrow.

And she also didn’t know she should have submitted to a breathalyzer. And she doesn’t remember falling over, or being unable to walk in a straight line. She wasn’t feeling well and claims British Airways had a duty of care towards her which they violated, even though she hadn’t told anyone she wasn’t feeling well. And “she was the victim of collusion amongst staff at BA and Newcastle airport who wanted her fired.”

Now, this does happen from time to time and of course isn’t as bad as a drunk co-pilot because while a flight attendant’s job does involve safety, thankfully it’s exceedingly rare that they’re called upon to play that part of their (‘primary’) role.

It’s actually taken 18 months, and Ms. Whitmore’s tribunal has yet to reach a conclusion. Here’s the thing. And this is a trick I picked up from Joseph Hazelwood (who – when his first mate told him about being ‘on the rocks’ – said, “no thanks mate, I’ll take mine straight up”): you always want to carry People magazine because the pictures make it much easier to know which side is up when you need to bury your head in reading.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. A friend’s husband who’s a state trooper stopped a drunken driver a few years ago going toward. DCA. The driver pleaded that he had a flight in an hour he was rushing for. The trooper said he could get his flight changed. The drunk replied ” I’m the pilot”.

    Pilots being skunk drunk out of passenger view don’t make me feel better.

    Many flight attendants need a drink, (or something).

  2. I served with Joe Hazelwood. I knew Joe Hazelwood. Joe Hazelwood was a friend of mine. Sir, you’re no Joe Hazelwood,

  3. I feel like if this comment section was forced to take a breathalyzer we’d all fail too!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *