JAL, ANA report back to gov’t after pilot drinking scandals

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. reported to the government on Friday measures they say will prevent heavy drinking by airline crew after both carriers had incidents involving alcohol-affected pilots.

Recent problems involving drunken pilots from Japan’s two major airlines stirred concern and prompted the government to tighten alcohol consumption rules for flight crew.

JAL co-pilot Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was arrested by British police after a heavy drinking session the night before a London-Tokyo flight on Oct. 28 left him around 10 times over the legal limit under British aviation law, while an ANA pilot was unable to fly after he became sick from drinking in Okinawa, causing delays to five flights on Oct. 25.

Jitsukawa pleaded guilty in a British court, while the ANA pilot quit as instructed by the company.

JAL President Yuji Akasaka offered an apology at the transport ministry, saying, «We are sorry for causing great trouble. We’d like to carry out steps to prevent future incidents.»

Transport minister Keiichi Ishii said Friday his ministry «will strictly instruct and oversee the airlines to ensure they implement preventive steps.»

Ishii has vowed to tighten rules on drinking by aviation staff by looking at standards in other countries. To that end, an expert panel will hold its first meeting next Tuesday and work to compile new rules by year-end.

Under the current Japanese system, aviation crew members are prohibited from drinking within eight hours of starting work, but there is no law or regulation that sets a legal limit on blood alcohol level.

Breath tests are not required. Airlines have their own rules that they voluntarily police, in contrast to the United States and Europe where legal frameworks are established, according to the transport ministry.

In the report, JAL pledged to keep for the moment its tentative ban on drinking within 24 hours of starting work.

The two airlines will hold separate press conferences in Tokyo Friday afternoon to reveal more details about their plans to implement preventive measures.

All — Kyodo News+

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