Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has introduced compulsory alcohol breathalyser tests for cabin crew just weeks after it faced a scandal over pilots who had conned their way into the airline with fake licences and the publication of a preliminary accident report into a deadly crash that largely blamed pilot error. The move also follows reports that Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has become aware of pilots and cabin crew smoking on the flight deck and in the passenger cabin.
The move to breathalyse cabin crew before every flight will come into force with immediate effect according to an internal memo. The tests will be conducted in the pre-flight briefing room and will either be carried out by one of the airline’s medical staff or supervised ground staff.
It’s already mandatory for pilots to undergo a pre-flight breathalyser test but it’s unclear why PIA has decided to extend the rule to cabin crew. Many countries enforce strict alcohol rules for pilots and cabin crew, mandating that alcohol can’t be consumed between 8 and 12 hours between flights, and often prescribing a maximum blood alcohol concentration.
Earlier this year, Japan introduced tough new testing rules, making it compulsory for flight attendants to undergo pre-flight breathalyser tests. The Japanese transport ministry toughened its relatively loose rules after a series of embarrassing incidents involving pilots at Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines (ANA).
In just over 12-months, Japan Airlines pilots failed breathalyser tests on 19 separate occasions. In one incident, a pilot arrested at Heathrow Airport was found to be 20-times over the UK’s alcohol limit for flight crew.
In the wake of the fake pilot licence scandal, in which Pakistan’s transport minister claimed 40 per cent of the countries pilots had “dubious” licences, PIA was banned from European and American skies. The European Air Safety Agency (EASA) has temporarily barred PIA from flying to or from the continent for six months, while the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration slapped the airline with a ‘no-fly’ order on July 15.
Around 260 pilots in the country have so far been suspending pending further investigations. Despite the ban, PIA will charter ‘wet lease’ flights in order to run limited operations.
In May, a PIA Airbus A320 crashed shortly after an aborted landing at Karachi International Airport with the loss of 97 lives.