2 United Pilots Arrested in Glasgow Forcing Flight Cancelation

Two pilots for United Airlines were arrested in Glasgow. Allegedly, both pilots failed to pass a breathalyzer test for alcohol. As a result, the flight, bound for Newark Liberty, was canceled.

United Airlines
Two United Airlines pilots were arrested for failing to pass a breathalyzer test. Photo: Simple Flying

The incident

The arrest occurred on Saturday, August 3rd. Scottish police arrested two pilots early in the morning. The flight they were to pilot, UA162, was subsequently canceled. Both pilots, aged 61 and 45, will face a court appearance on Tuesday, August 6th as reported by the BBC. The flight was scheduled to operate with a Boeing 757-200.

United 757
The Boeing 757-200 operated flight was canceled. Photo: Jonathan Palombo via Wikimedia Commons

It is unclear how intoxicated the pilots were. Since pilots are held to a much higher standard when it comes to blood alcohol level, it is possible that both pilots were over the limit after only consuming a small amount of alcohol.

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United’s response

Simple Flying reached out to United Airlines who provided the following statement:

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The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and have a strict, no tolerance policy for alcohol. These pilots were immediately removed from service and we are fully cooperating with local authorities. At this time, we are working to get our customers back on their journey as soon as possible. 

Alcohol in the cockpit

While most details are unknown regarding this incident, it is important to note that the aviation world takes alcohol very seriously when it comes to pilots. Pilots are cannot consume alcohol on board. Furthermore, pilots must not drink for a minimum of eight hours prior to flight. Beyond that, the blood alcohol limit for pilots is far lower than the limit to operate a vehicle. As a result, even one drink can push a pilot over the limit.

Champagne is fine for passengers, but most certainly not for the pilots. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Ultimately, in the name of passenger safety, this is a positive regulation. Alcohol does impair cognitive function and can delay a pilot’s response in case of an emergency. At the end of the day, no airline would want alcohol in a pilot’s system when they are flying the aircraft.

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The rules are very clear for pilots and alcohol. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Flickr

Overall

More concrete details will emerge at trial on Tuesday. Until then, key details such as the pilot’s blood alcohol content remain unknown. However, we do know that authorities deemed this to be a serious event since both pilots were arrested.

Unfortunately for passengers on UA162, this inevitably caused a disruption in travel plans. United provided hotel and meal vouchers to passengers. Moreover, according to the airline, passengers will be rebooked on alternative flights to get to their destination.

Were you impacted by the arrest of two pilots in Glasgow? Let us know in the comments!

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Randy Schweingrouber

US DOT has similar regulations for all modes of transportation. Speaking as a commercial truck driver, we are placed out of service for 10 hours if we flag a BAC of .01, and charged with a DUI and immediate revocation of our CDL if a BAC of .04 is discovered. Safety is paramount when it comes to interacting with the public.

gnoelj

See the BBC news report at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-49222120 . Seems like a somewhat similar incident happened to pilots from United Airlines, also at Glasgow Airport, on 27th August 2016.

Caroline

Please keep us posted on this matter for i am curious to know if these 2 intoxicated United pilots will be suspended or not.

Jack

I am never ever flying out of Glasgow. Obviously, Glasgow is at fault for allowing these two pilots to drink. Just using the same kind of logic that the anti-2nd Amendment idiots use.

Kay

So the city of Glasgow is supposed to know who is a pilot, and when they fly next?

Hein

They may not have been intoxicated as such, it’s a bit like the rubbery definition if ‘speeding’ on our roads. Though rules are rules, and for a good reason, usually. As an aviation medical consultant I am personally aware of a pilot (senior captain) flying for a middle east airline who had a layover of a few days in SYD but was on standby. He got drunk. Boredom, he reckoned. As bad luck would have it, the skipper of the flight for which he was on standby phoned in sick due to a dental abscess. ‘Our’ pilot had taken the… Read more »