Ouch: SriLankan Flight Delayed By 15 Hours Due To Drunk Pilot

Filed Under: SriLankan

Oh man. The SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330 flight from Frankfurt to Colombo this past Friday, UL554, was delayed by about 15 hours. It was scheduled to depart at around 3PM and land at around 5AM, though ended up leaving the following morning at 6AM, and arriving at around 7PM.


The reason? One of the pilots showed up to work drunk, though fortunately he was blocked from flying by the cabin crew (kudos to them for speaking out). Per dw.com:

The pilot arrived at the airport already drunk on Friday but intending to pilot an Airbus A330 to the Sri Lankan capital with 274 people on board.

The flight was delayed more than 15 hours, until a replacement pilot was found the next day. The airline apologized for the incident on its website.

“Due to unavailability of a flight crew member, the aircraft was unable to leave Frankfurt as scheduled last afternoon,” the airline said in the statement over the weekend.

The pilot has been suspended.

Well, at least they suspended the pilot. Hopefully he’ll be fired and/or get the help he needs, so that this doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile a while back an Air India captain was caught drunk for the third time, and still wasn’t fired.

Keep in mind that since this flight was departing from the EU, passengers would be eligible for EU261 compensation, meaning they’d each be entitled to 600EUR in cash. If there were in fact 274 passengers, that’s ~165K EUR worth of compensation. Of course that assumes passengers actually request it and fight for it, which I assume a vast majority of passengers won’t.

This is the last thing SriLankan Airlines needs, as they’re already cutting their flights to Frankfurt and Paris in a couple of months, due to the horrible financial situation they’re in. They were trying to refresh the brand and build a global airline, and had ordered some brand new Airbus A330-300 aircraft, as well as some Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

The A330s feature a gorgeous new reverse herringbone seat, and I’ve always found the service on SriLankan to be warm. In theory they offer a compelling product for the region.


Unfortunately that’s not enough to run a profitable airline, so the airline is changing course. SriLankan is now leasing most of their brand new A330-300 aircraft to Pakistan Airlines at breakeven costs, and is trying to find another airline to take over their A350 order, as they’re trying to downsize.

What’s standing in the way of SriLankan’s success?

Anyway, if you do want to fly SriLankan between Frankfurt and Colombo, there are still some great business class fares available!

(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)

  1. I guess 15 hours is how long it took him to sober up. “Let me fly this plane! I’m fine! Where are my keys? I love you guys so much!”

  2. why do you say Sri Lanka isn’t a logical connection point between Europe and Australia or Europe and SE Asia? Sri Lanka is southeast of the middle east

  3. Can you detail, perhaps write a post on how to fight for the EU261 compensation?

    I want to think I have experience flying (10+yr as EXP with AA). Last year my AA flight ex MAD got cancelled, I was rebooked on a later IB flight that got me back in the US 7+ hours late. AA employees distributed EU261 fliers but when I requested compensation in the aa website I got nothing; in the end the EXP desk gave me $300 (far below the EUR600 that should have applied in my case) and a few miles.

    thank you

  4. @Dave Non EU carriers a liable if the flight departs from an EU Country so the regulation would apply.

  5. US commercial airline pilots get arrested for showing up drunk for a flight. They need to fire this guy.

  6. You can also claim EU261 compensation when when departing out of Switzerland. I received 600€ when my Air Canada flight was delayed. Actually earned money on that trip since my return ticket Stockholm-FLL via GVA and YUL was incredibly cheap at SEK3500 (420usd).

  7. @julian
    The easy way is to use the services of a company that files the claim for you and gets a cut (20% or something like that) if the claim is successful. They know all the ins and outs of filing the claim, so their success rate is much higher. One of those companies is Air Help (google them or go to airhelp dot com), and I’ve heard good things about them (never used them myself).

  8. The pilot should definitely be sanctioned. There were 274 lives that could’ve been in his drunk hands.

  9. That’s what the FO is for… “Boss, I got this. Shut up, get some sleep, we’ll be on autopilot the whole way…” And hope for the best!

    Just want to add some humor, and would NEVER want to be a pax on that flight. Good call from the crew.

  10. If I were the crew I would speak up too, even if that means losing the job. After all, it’s their life at stake too, not just the passengers.

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