Tipsy at 30,000 feet.

I often hear people complain about the boredom of air travel, but I honestly don’t have any problem with long flights. If anything, I look at a long flight as opportunity to do some reading, play some handheld video games, or watch in-flight movies. Best of all, if it’s an international flight, alcoholic beverages are free, and they take on a special kind of deliciousness as they’re sipped miles up in the sky.

But while booze is an effectively enjoyable way to kill time on an airplane if you’re a passenger, it’s a different story if you’re a cabin attendant who’s on duty at the time.

On Christmas day Japan Airlines’ General Affairs Executive Officer Eiji Ueda and Executive Officer of Cabin Attendants Eri Abe held a press conference to announce the results of an internal investigation which had begun on December 17, after JAL flight 786 left Japan’s Narita Airport, bound for Honolulu. Roughly three hours after take-off, following the passengers’ first in-flight meal service, three of the cabin attendants onboard the 239-seat aircraft noticed the smell of alcohol on the breath of one of their coworkers. In addition, four of the crew reported that the accused flight attendant, who was assigned to the business class for that flight, was acting “languid and listless.”

Since she was showing signs of intoxication, a senior cabin attendant administered a breath test using an onboard device, which detected the presence of alcohol in the woman’s system (the accused cabin attendant’s breath sample recorded 0.15 milligrams/liter of alcohol, with 0.10 milligrams being the cutoff for a positive reading). The accused crew member also failed a second onboard breath test, but had passed a pre-flight test (in which her reading had been 0 milligrams/liter).

The accused flight attendant insists that the reading was caused by mouthwash she had used, but in subsequent experiments the breath analyzer was shown not to have a positive reading when used by someone who’d just gargled with mouthwash. Also, while other flight attendants said they could smell alcohol on her breath from a meter (3.3 feet) away, none of them mentioned the sort of minty aroma that typifies mouthwashes.

There’s also the fact that an inventory of the aircraft’s beverages showed that a six-ounce (170 milliliter) bottle of Premium Economy Class champagne was missing. Neither of the two passengers in the half-full aircraft’s Premium Economy Class had ordered the champagne. The empty bottle was later found in the trash receptacle of the galley closest to the accused cabin attendant’s jump seat, and other crew members report that she made several trips to the bathroom between take-off and when the positive breath tests were administered.

At the December 25 press conference, JAL announced that it has reached the official conclusion that the flight attendant, who still maintains her innocence, had been drinking during the flight. She had also previously been accused of drinking on duty during a flight in November of 2017, at which time an empty bottle of Premium Economy Class champagne was found in the trash of one of the plane’s lavatories.

While some might argue that being a little tipsy wouldn’t significantly affect one’s ability to perform the customer service element of a cabin attendant’s responsibilities, it’s easy to forget that cabin attendants are also in charge of issuing directions to ensure passenger safety during dangerous flight conditions and emergencies, including evacuations, which are definitely things that require a clear and sharp mind. As such, it’s assumed that JAL’s conclusion that the woman had been drinking on duty will lead to her termination

JAL Executive President Yuji Akasaka will take a voluntary one-month 20-percent pay cut as an act of contrition, and Abe will take a one-month 10-percent pay cut. The company has also announced that it will be requiring employees to attend a special training session on the dangerous influence alcohol can have on their ability to perform their duties, and that such a course will become an annual requirement for cabin attendants.

Source: Travel Watch (1, 2), The Mainichi
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso, Wikipedia/VortBot

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