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United Airlines Says Its Pilots Must Stop Drinking Earlier Before Flying Its Jets

Newsweek logo Newsweek 4 days ago Scott McDonald
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: A United Airlines passenger plane taxis at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado.© Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images A United Airlines passenger plane taxis at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado.

United Airlines announced it will have a new drinking cut-off time for its pilots before they climb behind the controls and navigate their jets through the skies.

The new rule, called "bottle-to-throttle," states that pilots must stop drinking alcohol at least 12 hours before they fly, according to The Dallas Morning News. The previous wait time was eight hours—which is the standard for pilots set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The new order comes just days after two United Airlines pilots were arrested for suspicion of being under the influence in Scotland shortly before a flight was due to takeoff for the United States. The flight from Glasgow to Newark, New Jersey, was ultimately cancelled.

FAA rules prohibit pilots from flying planes if they have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) that is at or above .04 percent. Most states in America say it is a crime to drive an automobile with a BAC of .08 percent or higher.

United Airlines sent out a bulletin describing its new policy, which took effect last Saturday.

"This policy is being changed to help assure pilot compliance with standards established by the United States and individual states where United operates around the world," the bulletin read.

However, this does not mean all United pilots are in the clear if they think they have sobered up—or reached less than minimum BAC—before their flights. Some countries in which United operates have a zero-tolerance policy for pilots flying from its airports.

United Airlines believes the extra four hours of sobriety will allow its pilots more time to work the alcohol out of their systems to a point they can now be more clear-headed before taking control.

The Dallas Morning News reported that BAC drops about 0.015 percent for each hour that no alcohol has been drank or sipped. A particularly heavy drinker who reached a BAC of 0.12 percent would drop to zero in eight hours. Someone who has slammed enough drinks to have a 0.18 BAC would reach zero in 12 hours.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots from United, said excessive drinking by pilots isn't common, and that everyday professionalism by its pilots are what make air travel safe.

"Inappropriate alcohol use by airline pilots is exceedingly rare," the association said.

Other airlines—American, Delta and Southwest—said they still adhere by the FAA's eight-hour rule and that they are not pondering any policy changes at this time. Alaska Airlines and JetBlue did not respond.

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