Southwest pilot called in sick after passengers accused him of drinking

Because I live in Columbus, this story ended up on Wednesday night’s local news. As I listened to the report, this is what I picked up.

At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, two guys heading for a Southwest flight at Port Columbus International Airport saw a pilot who seemed like he had been drinking at the security check point and decided to intervene. First, they told TSA officials that they were concerned, and then told the pilot when they thought he was heading to their gate that he reeked of alcohol and shouldn’t be drinking and flying.

According to them, the pilot ran off to the bathroom where he changed his uniform jacket for a civilian one. The pilot called in sick from the bathroom and later explained to the airport police who questioned him in the bathroom that he wasn’t drunk, but that he had been partying hard the day before.

Southwest called in another pilot to fly the plane to Orlando and is investigating the case along with the Federal Aviation Administration. The two men who pointed out the pilot’s possible issues, were actually going on a flight leaving from the next gate over.

Here’s a summary of the story from the Channel 10 News that was posted last night and a Columbus Dispatch article about the incident from today’s paper.

Considering that a pilot isn’t supposed drink eight hours before a flight or have a blood alcohol level of .04, according to FAA regulations, I’m wondering just how much a person could drink the night before and still smell? Wouldn’t Listerine have worked wonders if the pilot was within the legal limit? An Altoid or two perhaps? However, nothing conclusive has been found out yet, so he might have been telling the truth and one of those people whose pheromones weren’t treating him well.

Back in 2006, there was a similar issue with a Southwest pilot. If there’s only one of these stories that pops up every few years, I’d say most pilots know not to drink and fly, and possibly, the guy who ran to the bathroom yesterday. He may have been A-okay and simply unaware of his odor.

Other “troublemakers of the sky”: