Fully Boarded Delta Flight Was About to Depart – When the Pilot Was Found With Alcohol

Every airline at some point faces pilots found over the legal limit for alcohol. In the US there are separate rules for blood alcohol content and for time (“8 hours bottle to throttle”).

It’s happened at Alaska Airlines and at United. And at Air India. And at British Airways. We’ve even seen a pilot blow a .24 in the cockpit.

Sure, when an American pilot was arrested a reader asked whether that meant the airline was back to serving pre-departure beverages and I laughed. But it’s serious. Even seeing alcohol in the cockpit is serious.

Delta flight 1728 from Minneapolis to San Diego was fully boarded on Tuesday when the pilot was removed from the aircraft and arrested due to suspected alcohol levels.

The pilot had been seen “leaving a TSA screening line for crew members when he noticed there was additional screening being conducted” which was suspicious, though he went back into the line and cleared security, boarded the aircraft and began preparing to fly. He turned out to have “a container of alcohol” with him although it’s unclear what his drink of choice was.

Passengers were deplaned, a new pilot was found, and the flight was delayed by about an hour.

George Burns once said, “Actually, it only takes one drink to get me loaded. Trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or fourteenth.”

A real challenge is that 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 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 »

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  1. “Fully Boarded Delta Flight Was About to Depart – When the Pilot Was Found With Alcohol”

    Nice click bait. How about writing in a more professional manner:

    “Pilot found with alcohol prior to flight departure”

    This isn’t the national enquirer.

  2. I would also have liked more detail on exactly how the pilot was caught or what made, who, suspicious to where some sort of investigation was done? I wonder what sort of announcmenets they made to explain the delay to pax?

  3. @Oh! Matron! He was just quoting officials. Maybe they were helping Gary with a good click bait title?

  4. Was this pilot simply found to have alcohol in his bag at a security checkpoint? If so, there is nothing wrong with that. Now, did the pilot appear to be intoxicated? That’s a different story. I’ve heard pax stupidly joke to the pilots about not drinking and to the pilots and crew, it’s no joking matter and they have to be tested when that accusation is made. I just think that we should know all the facts until we jump to conclusions.

  5. For those that think this is click bait, how often is a pilot arrested while in uniform, before or after a flight. Hopefully, he has a good explanation.
    Did he consume any alcohol, or was it just luggage?

  6. Alcohol should not be sold inside air terminals that would resolve both airline passenger problems and flight crew problems.

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