American Airlines (AAL) had to cancel a flight from Manchester to Philadelphia on Thursday after the pilot reporting for duty was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.
Police arrested the 62-year-old pilot at the Manchester Airport in northwest England, though he has since been released on bail.
Flight AA735 was canceled, and passengers were rebooked on other flights. American Airlines said in a statement that “safety is our highest priority,” and that it is “fully cooperating with local law enforcement.”
In the U.S., pilots who try to fly or succeed in flying drunk can face criminal charges and up to 15 years in prison, Quartz reports.
The Associated Press wrote in November that “each day, there are 90,000 flights around the world, carrying more than 8 million people. And the overwhelming majority of pilots in those cockpits are sober.” Good point, though not entirely reassuring.
Japan’s problem with drunk pilots came into focus last fall, after a pilot reported to work with alcohol levels nine times the legal limit of 0.2%. Japan requires pilots to refrain from drinking in the eight hours before they fly—the same as in the U.S., where the blood alcohol limit for pilots is 0.4%, half of the limit for vehicle drivers.
In 2017, random alcohol tests were done on 12,480 pilots in the U.S., and only 10 failed. (Pilots in the U.S. and most of Europe are only tested randomly or if there is a suspicion that they are drunk.) But in India, all pilots and flight attendants are tested before departing on every single flight, AP reports. With that stricter policy—and despite India having a fraction of the flights the U.S. has—43 pilots tested positive for alcohol before flights last year, per India’s civil aviation agency.