Here’s a lesson from Delta Airlines: If you think you smell alcohol on a pilot’s breath, don’t dare ask the flight crew if he’d been drinking; you’ll just end up being kicked off the flight. That’s what happened to a woman from California, who recently found herself booted from a Delta flight.
The 51-year-old woman was waiting to fly home to Southern California from Atlanta when she and three other passengers had a brief conversation with one of the pilots of their delayed flight. When the pilot walked away from the group, one of her fellow passengers asked the others if they had also smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath.
“A gentleman standing behind me asked, ‘Did anyone smell that? It smelled a little like vodka,'” recalled the woman. “We all agreed that he did smell alcohol, but we didn’t know if he had been drinking or what we should do about it.”
The woman then spoke to the head flight attendant on board the plane: “I told her that I didn’t know what protocol is, but I believe I smelled alcohol on one of the pilots’ breath.”
The flight attendant then talked to another pilot, who then requested to speak to the woman:
He asked me to come inside the cockpit, where he shut the door and asked me about my conversation with the pilot in the jetway. I told him what I had told the flight attendant; that other passengers and I thought we had smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath…. He said he had been with the captain for several hours before the flight. I was satisfied with the pilot’s explanation, thanked him and returned to my seat.
Twenty minutes later, she was approached by a Delta Airlines manager who asked her to follow him off the plane. “He then told me the captain took a test that proved he did not have anything to drink,” she says.
The passenger then returned to her seat and thought the matter was over and done with. She was wrong.
“About 20 minutes later, the Delta manager returned with a female colleague and they asked me to gather my belongings and follow them off the flight,” said the passenger. “I was so embarrassed.”
Back in the airport, it reiterated to her that the pilot had tested negative for alcohol. She was also told that “they take these accusations very seriously and that the captain and his crew did not want me on his flight.”
She was given meal and hotel vouchers and told she could take a flight to L.A. the next morning.
“All I did was voice my concerns,” she said. “I wasn’t a threat to anyone and for them to remove me was wrong.”
NBC spoke to a retired United Airlines captain who gave a very mixed message on the situation:
If you think someone is drunk, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it… However, in this case, because the captain had not been drinking, Delta made the right decision by asking her to leave the plane.
So if you have reason to believe that a pilot has been drinking, you “owe it to yourself, your loved ones and other passengers to report it,” but if you’re mistaken you deserve to be humiliated and kicked off a plane?
What would you have done in this woman’s situation?
Thanks to Pete for the tip!