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United after pilot arrests: No drinking 12 hours before work, longer than FAA requires

United Airlines has tightened its preflight alcohol-use policy for pilots a week after two of its pilots were arrested in Scotland on suspicion of intoxication before a flight to Newark.

The airline now requires pilots to refrain from drinking alcohol at least 12 hours before they report to work, up from the eight hours required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations and United’s previous requirement. The rules on a pilot’s blood alcohol content when reporting for duty did not change. Pilots cannot report for work with a BAC of 0.04 or higher, also a federal policy.

United’s new 12 hour no-alcohol policy, first reported by Skift, took effect Aug. 10. Pilots were notified in a bulletin from Henry Canada, manager of flight operations manual.

“It is essential that pilots understand that minimal compliance of United’s policy does not assure compliance with DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) or individual state standards,” the bulletin says. “Countries outside the United States have differing policies which include a blood alcohol content of 0.00% and punishment criteria. 

“It is the sole personal responsibility of the pilot to report for duty as defined by the company, DOT/FAA or the governing country.”

The airline does not mention the Scotland incident in the memo about the new policy.

A United Airlines Airbus A319 breaks up the American Airlines monopoly on Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport in April, 2019. (Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Special to USA TODAY)

United’s move also follows another high-profile incident involving an allegedly drunk flight crew member on a United flight. A flight attendant on a United Express flight from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana, last week was fired and charged with public intoxication following an Aug. 2 incident. The flight was operated by United affiliate Air Wisconsin.

Flight attendants are also required not to drink alcohol a minimum of eight hours before they report to work. United spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said she was checking on whether the airline is changing that policy, too.

American, Delta and Southwest said their alcohol-use policies for flight crews remain no alcohol for eight hours prior to reporting for work.

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