A United Airlines pilot who showed up drunk to fly a plane from Paris to Dallas was slapped with a one-year flight ban, a French court ruled.
The 63-year-old American pilot, identified only as Henry W., showed up to work on Sunday afternoon with a blood-alcohol level of 0.132%, or about three times the legal limit permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration for pilots in Europe, the Local France reported.
The pilot was set to take off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris to a stop at the Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia, with about 267 passengers aboard.
Henry told the court Tuesday that he had only two glasses of wine the night before the flight, but officers disputed his claims and said he showed “signs of obvious drunkness” when he showed up to work at 3 p.m.
“He was staggering slightly, his eyes were glassy, and his mouth pasty,” one police officer told the court in Bobigny.
Given his blood-alcohol level and the officers’ testimony, a French judge said she doubted Henry’s claims and that it was clear he had been irresponsible, saying “there could have been a plane crash — you put 267 passengers at risk.”
The pilot was also given a six-month suspended prison term and handed a nearly $5,000 fine, the local outlet reported.
A representative for Henry could not be immediately reached for comment.
United Airlines said the pilot was immediately removed from service, and that the company is fully cooperating with French authorities.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We hold all our employees to the highest standards and have a strict no-tolerance policy for alcohol,” United said in a statement.
The company cracked down on drunkenness in 2019 after two pilots were arrested in Scotland on suspicion of being drunk before they were set to take off on a trans-Atlantic flight to Newark.
The incident led the company to launch its “bottle-to-throttle” policy, warning pilots that they must keep away from alcohol for at least 12 hours before their flights.