Another JAL Alcohol Incident: Cabin Crew Caught Drinking During Flight

Filed Under: Japan Airlines

What is going on at Japan Airlines?!

Earlier this year, a JAL pilot reported for duty at London Heathrow appearing intoxicated. He was reported by the bus driver (who drove the crew from their hotel to the airport), removed from the flight and immediately suspended.

He was ten times over the legal limit.

This had some serious consequences:

JAL First Class

But only a few months later comes another incident involving alcohol and crew, this time cabin crew.

A JAL cabin crew member operating a flight from Tokyo to Honolulu passed a breath test prior to the start of the flight (and recorded 0%). During the flight, other cabin crew members found an empty 200ml bottle of sparkling wine in the galley, which was to be served to the premium economy passengers on the flight.

Presumably this raised suspicion because it was either found outside of the times when alcohol was being served to passengers (i.e. before boarding), or found in a location where empty alcohol bottles should not have been kept in the galley.

Crew also observed this cabin crew member acting ‘unusually,’ and could smell alcohol on her breath. They confronted her and she was then breath tested on board twice.

She recorded blood alcohol levels of 0.15 and then 0.10 respectively. She claimed the result was because she had been using mouthwash (some mouth wash does contain alcohol). She was removed from duty for the remainder of the flight.

What is the craziest part of this story for me, is that she had been working as a cabin crew member for JAL for 23 years.

Like the pilot incident earlier this year, both JAL’s President, and Head of Cabin Crew will take pay cuts because of this incident (20% and 10%, respectively) for one month.

JAL admits it does not have any specific rules for cabin crew and drinking.

Bottom line

I love Japan and Japanese airlines.

It both fascinates and baffles me that in a country/society with such rigid adherence to rules as well as such a culture of avoiding shame, there have been two very serious incidents within just a few months of each other.

To think that the 46 year old cabin crew member, who had been at the airline for over two decades, would likely end her career over something like this is awful.

I’m amazed that JAL doesn’t have strict rules on cabin crew drinking before (and certainly during!) flights — perhaps there is usually such good behaviour on duty that there has not needed to be in the past?

What do you make of these alcohol incidents at Japan Airlines?

  1. “She recorded blood alcohol levels of 0.15 and then 0.10 respectively. She claimed the result was because she had been using mouthwash (some mouth wash does contain alcohol).”

    Mouthwash resulting in a BAC of 0.15. Lol okay.

  2. “It both fascinates and baffles me that in a country/society with such rigid adherence to rules as well as such a culture of avoiding shame, there have been two very serious incidents within just a few months of each other.”

    Japan also has a real drinking culture. Hit a bar in Tokyo at 5 pm and watch the guys in suits getting wasted at an astounding rate. And then hope they make the last train home.

    That said, a cabin crew member having a quick snifter bothers me a lot less than a pilot doing it.

  3. Agree with Tom and Matt. The Japanese want to save face at all costs but the month I spent in Japan was the most I’ve ever drank my whole life.

  4. Per JapanTimes.

    Japan Airlines Co. has urged all workers to refrain from drinking for the rest of the year, following recent scandals involving some of its staff including a co-pilot, despite the year-end party season being at its height. No alcoholic drinks were served at many of the year-end parties held among JAL employees so far. Commenting on the situation, one employee said that the situation “can’t be helped because we caused trouble” through the series of drinking scandals.

  5. “JAL admits it does not have any specific rules for cabin crew and drinking.”

    So what is the problem? How is this a serious incident if it wasn’t against the rules.

  6. Did anyone even for a second drop to think that maybe, just maybe the flight attendant was going through some personal hardship and needed a drink to get over whatever was on her mind? It might not be professional, but sometimes people are going through things we have no idea about.

  7. It’s called Alcoholism. She has probably hid it for years. Rules will not prevent an alcoholic from drinking because it’s a disease. Rules may just make it a harder choice to do when they’re of sober mind. They should give her a second chance given her tenure on the caveat that she goes to a two week program to get help. -recovering alcoholic

  8. They administered breath testing in-flight? I’m surprised they carry that equipment (testing apparatus) on board.

    Who is certified to administer the test? Can any crew member request that another crew member be tested in-flight? How common is that?

  9. Matt says:
    December 28, 2018 at 9:28 am
    Japanese culture is really f**ked up. All the Japanese I know are practically alcoholics.

    No need to be racist. Japanese people might like a drink, but they are far from all being alcoholics.

  10. @Simon Overall, I literally gave a talk earlier this year in Kyoto as part of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism Annual Conference. Thank you very much for your comment though.

  11. Alcoholism is a disease, period. They cannot help themselves!!. Japanese society is falling apart.

    There is another way to look at this story. A cry for help from a fellow human being or person, over caring that her 23 year career has ended.

    I love Japan, but there are aspects of their society that are odd to straight up f’d up :-(. I’m sure addiction and mental illnesses etc are not spoken about in general.

  12. As bad as this sounds, the airline and presumably the Japanese government had no rules or laws against non-flight deck crew from drinking. Wrong and irresponsible, but technically not against the rules. You know someone doesn’t do this once. She has probably done it many times.

  13. Who really gives a ….? Is this silly story going to stop any of you flying JAL? Surely there are more interesting issues you can publish.

  14. After 23 years serving Y-class passengers, surely a girl would need a drink to get through the day, wouldn’t you think?

  15. @Stuart It’s interesting because it keeps happening among JAL and ANA crew the last few years. You just don’t hear about it because it usually happens on domestic routes within Japan, which don’t make international news. Maybe that’s why you think this is a no big deal one or two time thing because you don’t read Japanese news. Of course, the one that happened in the UK would make worldwide news because it happened on foreign soil at a major airport with the guy being thrown in jail.

    Too bad OMAAT doesn’t have more bi-lingual writers who can bring more context into these incidents.

    Don’t act like you don’t care. If this article is enough to make you complain, I would bet any amount of money a delay caused by a drunk crew member would make you beyond upset, which is usually what happens when these crew members are caught drunk (which luckily didn’t cause a delay in this case). Weather and mechanical delays are a part of traveling, but a delay caused by a drunk crew member is even more frustrating for obvious reasons.

  16. Mouthwash can definitely result in a BAC of .15%–If you drink it.
    Read the ingredients. For mouthwash containing alcohol, the ingredient will say SD ALCOHOL 40, which means, “specially denatured 40% alcohol by volume.” Specially-denatured alcohol is simply alcohol that has had titanium dioxide added. Titanium dioxide is listed as the “bitterest edible substance known to man.”

    So there.

  17. Japanese people are basically alcoholics. they drink so much. it’s so sad, such a beautiful culture but they are so depressed and drink too much.

  18. I don’t inderstand firstly how JAL wouldnt have an alcohol policy for all staff – what happens in an emergency and most of the crew have decided to hang a few ? – I’m stunned. Secondly who’s doing the alcohol testing – this would have to be overseen by a Japanese government body similar to CASA in Australia?

  19. Guys in suits hit bars at 5pm? Hmm, I must have been countless times to a different “Japan” then. Lol.

    But yes, two of my Tokyo-based colleagues do drink a lot. Pressure.

  20. Not an amusing thing to crack jokes or make frivolous remarks at…having a drunk pilot means having lives of hundreds of people at stake and peril!

  21. Poor lady . Maybe she hated her job and needed to drink . Women have problems getting good jobs in Japan so I guess she was hiding her drinking issues

  22. If one drinks alcohol like this, they can’t just stop.
    They need help. The airline should help. Just like GM does for its workers, they get a full re-hab paid by the company at least 2 times.

    JAL needs to accept it has a problem and if they are truly a caring Japan, they will help these people and not fire them.

  23. How does someone drinking 200 ml of wine get a BAC of 0.15? That is a very big number. A 100 lb female would have to consume 3.5 drinks in an hour to have a number that high. So, I question the 0.15 BAC number or the 1 drink claim.

  24. I would be furious at that cabin member ! They have very important duties to perform.. more than just serving dinner.. what if something happened.. If I cant have a drink… then you dont get too either.. lol

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