Canadian Airline Pilots Suspended for Being Drunk Before Transatlantic Flight

By Paul Gaita 07/25/16

The pilots have been charged with threatening or abusive behavior and performing an aviation function while over the legal alcohol limit.

Canadian Airline Pilots Suspended for Being Drunk Before Transatlantic Flight

Two pilots for the Canadian airline Air Transat were suspended after being arrested on charges of alcoholic impairment shortly before they were scheduled to fly a passenger jet from Glasgow, Scotland to Toronto. The pilots, Captain Jean-Francois Perreault and first officer Imran Zafar Syed, both from Ontario, were ready to depart with 250 passengers aboard Flight TS725 on July 18 when members of the plane’s flight crew noticed that the two men appeared to be impaired and contacted authorities. The flight was delayed a day and eventually landed in Canada on the 19th, after which Air Transat announced that the pilots had been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

“Canadian and European rules and regulations regarding alcohol consumption are very strict,” said Air Transat spokesman Pierre Tessier told CBC News. “Our internal rules are even more stringent. Any departure from these regulations is not tolerated by Air Transat. The safety of our crew and passengers is and will always be our top priority, and the recent event in Glasgow goes against the values of our airline.” Perreault and Syed appeared briefly in court on July 19 to face charges of performing an aviation function while over the legal limit for alcoholic consumption, as well as acting in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause fear and alarm. Bail was opposed for the two individuals, who were then remanded to local custody.

Reactions from passengers, who were put up in a local hotel and given a $200 travel voucher, were mixed in regard to the airline’s handling of the situation. Scottish interior designer Colin McAllister, one-half of the Scottish television design duo Colin & Justin who was aboard TS725 noted that “it sounds like two people made a mistake and the airline actually did the right thing, They made sure we weren’t flying with these people and tried to take away as much of the hassle as possible.” Others said that Air Transat staff were less than forthcoming with the reasons for the delay and cancellation, and that they didn’t find out the real reasons until the media in Scotland and Toronto had picked up the story. “I was shocked,” passenger Fahra Murad told CBC. “I had no idea this was the cause. We were told it was operational. They should have kept us informed.” 

Both Canadian Aviation Regulations and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have an eight-hour “bottle to throttle” rule that prevents pilots from flying aircraft if they have consumed alcohol within an eight-hour timeframe, or if they are under the influence of alcohol.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.