Flight attendant drank mini bottle of champagne on duty, airline investigation finds

A Japan Airlines flight attendant who failed two breathalyser tests had drunk a mini bottle of champagne while on duty at 37,000 feet, an internal investigation has discovered. 

The flight attendant failed two breathalyser tests after a colleague noticed that her breath smelled of alcohol during a flight from Tokyo to Honolulu.

The investigation found an empty 200ml bottle of champagne, usually reserved for premium economy passengers, was found in the galley. 

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Three crew members said they smelled alcohol on the flight attendant’s breath and four more reported that she had been behaving unusually, according to the airline.

The crew member had passed a breathalyser test taken immediately before the flight, but then failed two tests she took onboard, recording alcohol levels of 0.15 mg and 0.10 mg of alcohol per litre of breath respectively.

The woman said the result was down to her using mouthwash. She was then removed from duty for the remainder of the flight.

She had been a flight attendant with Japan Airlines for more than 23 years, said the airline.

The airline said the crew member was likely to have been drinking alcohol on a flight in November 2017 too. 

JAL President Yuji Akasaka and Eri Abe, head of cabin crew at the airline, will take a salary deduction of 20 and 10 per cent respectively for one month to take responsibility for the incident.

In November, a JAL pilot was found to be almost 10 times over the alcohol limit when tested 50 minutes before a flight to Tokyo to London.

First officer Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was breathalysed after the driver of a crew bus noticed the 42-year-old’s breath smelled of alcohol. He pleaded guilty to exceeding the alcohol limit for pilots at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court and was jailed for 10 months. 

In the wake of that incident, the Japanese transport ministry changed the rules around alcohol testing for pilots on domestic airlines.

There was no legal alcohol limit for airline crew in Japan until a rule change earlier this month, though they were barred from drinking alcohol in the eight hours prior to reporting for duty.

As of this month, testing is obligatory and the legal limit is 0.09 mg/l, though pilots will be barred from flying if any alcohol is detected. 

JAL said it would hold group discussions on alcohol consumption and awareness, and that it would “implement periodic alcohol tests during the flight and/or after the arrival of the aircraft”.

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