United Updates Alcohol Policy After Pilots Prepared To Take Off Drunk 

By Kelly Burch 08/16/19

The recent arrests of two pilots who failed breathalyzers before their flights have culminated in stricter rules for the airline. 

United airplane
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United Airlines is updating its alcohol use policy after two pilots were arrested on Aug. 3 in Scotland after they failed a breathalyzer test. 

The pilots were preparing to fly from Glasgow to New Jersey when they failed the breath test. It wasn’t clear what the pilots’ blood alcohol levels were. 

However, this week United Airlines updated its policy, which now requires pilots and other crew to abstain from alcohol for 12 hours before they are scheduled to work, according to USA Today.

Previously, the airline required eight hours of abstinence, the minimum "bottle to throttle" requirement according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. The FAA guidelines also say that “a more conservative approach is to wait 24 hours from the last use of alcohol before flying.”

After the pilots’ arrests, United Airlines released the following statement to the BBC: "We hold all of our employees to the highest standards and have a strict, no tolerance policy for alcohol. These pilots were immediately removed from service and we are fully cooperating with local authorities. At this time, we are working to get our customers back on their journey as soon as possible."

One of the pilots, Glendon Gulliver, 61, was arraigned in Scotland last week and released on bail.

Flying Under The Influence

A United flight attendant was also charged with public intoxication this month (Aug. 2) , after passengers on a plane from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana grew concerned about her during the flight.

“Our flight attendant appears to be quite drunk,” one passenger tweeted to United. “She is slurring her speech (she couldn’t make it through the security announcement), couldn’t walk straight/was bumping into everyone in the aisle, and kept dropping things. All the passengers seem to recognize it too. This is appalling.”

Julianne March was fired from her position.

This isn’t the first time that United Airlines pilots have been in trouble in Scotland because of their substance use. In 2017, Paul Grebenc, 35, and Carlos Roberto Licona, 45, were charged with being over the legal limit for alcohol. Grebenc was sentenced to 10 months of prison time, and Licona was sentenced to 15 months. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.