Troubling news coming out of South Bend, Indiana; A United Express flight attendant on a flight from Chicago O’Hare to South Bend appeared to be visibly drunk. Because the plane was a 50-seater CRJ200, there was only one flight attendant on board.
An ABC news report captures the incident:
Although in-air emergencies are rare, should one have occurred on this flight, the safety of passengers could have been severely compromised. Passengers on the flight reported that the flight attendant slurred her speech and was incomprehensible during the safety briefing. Although a relatively large number of passengers ignore the safety briefing, passengers mostly rely on the flight attendant for instruction in case of emergency.
Simple Flying reached out to United and Air Wisconsin. Air Wisconsin is a regional partner for United Express. Air Wisconsin provided Simple Flying with the following statement:
“The Flight Attendant involved in this incident is no longer employed by Air Wisconsin. We will continue to cooperate with local authorities and assist them as necessary.”
Although there have been a number of stories regarding alcohol inflight recently, these occurrences are very rare. Flight crew have a much higher standard when it comes to alcohol. In most cases, even one drink can push a crewmember over the limit of alcohol. However, in this incident, the 0.2 breathalyzer result indicates the crewmember had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol.
Airlines also take this seriously. An inebriated flight crew can have severe consequences in case of an emergency. These kinds of incidents can severely impact an airline’s safety record and public reputation. Thus, it is not surprising that the flight attendant was relieved of her duties at Air Wisconsin.
Why did the flight take off?
One flight attendant under the influence does not represent a lack of safety at United Express. However, there are some concerning elements to this story. The New York Post reports that passengers had to fasten the flight attendant’s seatbelt for her. In addition, a passenger indicated that the cockpit crew could not get a hold of the flight attendant. And yet, the flight still took off.
There could have been a number of reasons why the crew decided to take off. Perhaps the crew was delayed and had additional flights to operate. But, there are some concerns with this story. It is unknown if the cockpit crew knew if the cabin was secured for takeoff. It is entirely unclear how much the cockpit crew knew about the state of the flight attendant.
Hopefully, Air Wisconsin can improve policies to avoid an incident like this happening again.
Although this is not indicative of a poor safety culture at Air Wisconsin, several questions do arise from this story. Thankfully, there were no emergencies and the flight concluded without incident. It also seems that authorities in Indiana handled the situation well. And, Air Wisconsin has indicated they are cooperating with local authorities. In fact, the termination of the employee does indicate Air Wisconsin is taking the situation seriously.
Were you a passenger on this flight? What do you make of this incident? Let us know in the comments!