Over 100 passengers were stranded when their flight’s co-pilot got too drunk to fly.
It’s the nightmare scenario for travellers. You’re moments away from taking a well-deserved vacation in beautiful Lisbon, Portugal. The beaches there are some of the most sought-after sands in the world.
But then you look over and notice a guy in a pilot’s uniform stumbling around. Is he for your flight? He certainly seems like it as he walks (or more accurately, lurches) toward the terminal. You can smell the booze from where you’re sitting. Not a good sign.
Luckily you’re in Stuttgart and the local authorities will not allow a pilot to fly intoxicated. Some nice uniformed policemen arrive, put the drunken pilot in chains, and drag him away.
Unfortunately, this means your flight is canceled and the next flight heading to Lisbon isn’t until next week. Vacation plans ruined.
That’s what happened to 100 passengers in March when a co-pilot with TAP Air Portugal was spotted by Stuttgart officials stumbling around and reeking of alcohol. They managed to stop him before he got anywhere near the plane, but the flight was indeed canceled with TAP tweeting that the next available flight wasn’t until the following Monday.
TAP put all 100 passengers up for the weekend in hotels and gave them meal vouchers. As for the co-pilot, it’s unknown if he was officially arrested or if he retains his position, but it seems highly unlikely any airline would want a drunk on their payroll.
Thankfully, it’s still very rate in the US for a pilot to be anywhere near an airport drunk. In a 2015 pop-quiz, the FAA tested over 13,000 pilots at American airports to see who blew over the legal limit (which is 0.04% for pilots, or half the driving limit). Only 10 people blew over, which is good news for travellers.
Of course, with the latest autopilot software we might not even need pilots at all in the next few decades, but in the meantime, it’s nice to know they’re all mostly sober.