Finnair passengers on a flight AY1763 from Helsinki to Rome were in for a delay on Wednesday. After captain had given the intro speech on the ground, everyone was asked to leave the plane due to “passenger miscount”.
The flight was boarded again two hours later and there were new captain on the helm. The previous one had been taken on a police car from the plane based on the passenger reports on the Finnish media.
The Finnair rules prohibits crew drinking any alcohol 12 hours before their flight and company has zero tolerance towards being under influence. The captain had blown 1.5 during the breathalyzer test that police had conducted on the spot. The legal limit in Finland for the cockpit is the same as operating a motor vehicle that is 0.5.
Finnair has issued a press release in Finnish where they state that the employment with the said captain has been terminated per company policy. Finnair communications director doesn’t recall similar incident ever happening previously with the airline.
There appears to be, however, a case back in 2004 from the UK where Finnair captain was over the limit. Here’s an excerpt from the Telegraph (access the piece here):
Heikki Tallila, 51, from Finland, was almost two and a half times the legal alcohol limit for a pilot when he was arrested in the cockpit of a Boeing 757 on August 23. He is the first pilot to be sentenced under new legislation introduced in March which gives police powers to breathalyse aircrew suspected of drink-flying.
The court was told Talila had drunk up to seven glasses of wine and a glass of beer before he was due to pilot the jet to Dalaman in Turkey. A blood test found he had 49mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The legal cutoff for a pilot is 20mg – 60mg less than the drink-drive limit.
The court heard that since his arrest Tallila had been sacked from his £100,000-a-year job as a pilot with Finnair, where he had worked for 25 years.
Good that the other crew or airport employees reported the captain before the flight took off.
I just don’t get it. There is no downside for a captain to call in sick if they are under the influence (whatever the excuse). Someone must have been drinking heavily if they are three times over the legal limit. Why risk very good and high paying job?
There have been quite a few cases recently where airline employees have been caught with alcohol. There was this BA captain (read more here) and flight attendant from the same airline that went binge drinking miniature bottles during a flight from Singapore (read more here).
Perhaps airline should pay more attention to the substance abuse issues among their workforce? I don’t think that these are isolated incidents.