A British Airways pilot was removed from the cockpit Thursday night after his colleagues suspected he was hammered.
The Sun reported that cabin crew members told authorities they feared the pilot was inebriated after they smelled alcohol on his breath. Sussex police reportedly “rushed on the plane and headed straight for the cockpit. The first officer was cuffed and led away” shortly before the plane was about to depart from Gatwick Airport. The 49-year-old pilot was arrested “on suspicion of performing an aviation function when the level of alcohol was over the prescribed limit.”
The pilot was replaced, and the packed Boeing 77 aircraft left for Mauritius nearly three hours after its originally scheduled departure. British Airways apologized to the affected passengers, insisting their customers’ safety is the top priority.
“We're taking this matter extremely seriously and are assisting the police with their inquiries,” the airline said in a statement. “We are sorry for the delay to our customers. The aircraft remained at the gate until an alternative third pilot joined the flight crew. The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority.”
The pilot, from Harmondsworth, West London, was still in custody as of Friday.
This, unfortunately, isn’t the first time a pilot or flight crew members have been removed from planes after they caught drunk. In 2016, an American Airlines co-pilot was detained at Detroit Metropolitan Airport because he failed to pass a Breathalyzer test. In 2015, an airBaltic crew, including a co-pilot, was sentenced to time behind bars after they tested positive for alcohol just hours before their flight was scheduled for takeoff.