ANA Wings employee grounded as his breath keeps him from taking to the skies.

In Japan, it’s common to spend the first few days of the new year maintaining a comfortable buzz. However, that’s supposed to be for people with time off who’re relaxing at home with friends and family. If you’ve been roped into working during the standard vacation period, showing up drunk is a no-no, especially if you happen to have a job where your customers are putting their lives in your hands.

On the morning of January 3, a pilot for ANA Wings, a domestic-flight-only subsidiary of All Nippon Airways, arrived at Osaka’s Itami airport, from where he was supposed to fly Flight 501 to Miyazaki. However, a pre-fight breath test showed the pilot to be under the influence of alcohol, roughly an hour away from the scheduled departure time of 7:10 a.m.

According to ANA, the pilot, who is in his 40s, admits to drinking two canned highball cocktails (each roughly 350 milliliters [11.8 ounces]) the previous evening. However, he claims that he consumed both drinks before 7 p.m., and had no alcohol after that. This would place him within the ANA internal guidelines that say employees should allow eight hours for their body to process 40 grams of alcohol.

Nevertheless, the breath analyzer the pilot was asked to breathe into prior to getting on the plane registered a reading above the numerical allowable amount of 0.05 milligrams of alcohol per liter of air. The test was then repeated using other machines in order to rule out possible mechanical error, and when the positive readings continued, the pilot was pulled from the flight and a replacement summoned to fly the plane and its 40 passengers to Miyazaki, with departure taking place 17 minutes behind schedule and the delay affecting four other domestic flights as well.

Oddly, the aircraft’s first officer, who had been drinking with the pilot on the night before the flight, passed his breath test with no problem, and was allowed to work the flight as usual. That discrepancy suggests that either the pilot was either being disingenuous when he said he hadn’t had anything to drink after 7 p.m., or that perhaps his body’s ability to process alcohol is so low that a mere two drinks is enough to keep him inebriated for half a day. Either way, in light of other recent alcohol-related scandals in the Japanese aviation industry, he’s likely to face strict disciplinary action from ANA.

Sources: Livedoor News/Kyodo via Hachima Kiko, Aviation Wire
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he likes having a few drinks before getting on the plane too, but then again, he’s a passenger.