Korean Air defends pilot who tried to drink alcohol during flight

Helen Coffey

Korean Air has defended a pilot who attempted to drink alcohol during a flight, saying his actions “didn’t cause real trouble”, while demoting the member of cabin crew who reported him.

The captain tried to pick up a glass of champagne from the welcome drinks tray before take-off on a flight from South Korea to Amsterdam in December 2018, according to local media reports.

A member of cabin crew stopped him, saying “you can’t drink alcohol”.

Midway through the flight, the pilot requested a “cup of wine” from a member of cabin crew. He was refused and the flight attendant reported the incident to the cabin crew manager.

The manager let other crew and the co-pilot know what had happened, but instructed them not to mention anything to the captain until after the plane had landed due to concerns over his mental state.

However, the co-pilot told the captain prior to touchdown, resulting in the manager and co-pilot having an “altercation”.

After the cabin crew manager filed a formal complaint regarding the incident, Korean Air investigated the claims.

But while the captain merely received a verbal warning, the manager was demoted for causing conflict onboard the flight.

“It’s true the captain made a controversial action, but it didn’t cause real trouble,” said a Korean Air spokesperson, reports The Korea Times.

They added that the cabin crew manager was responsible for using “insulting words during the altercation and revealing the internal issue”, referring to the fact that the manager shared the incident on the airline’s anonymous online message board.

It’s not the first time a pilot’s drinking habits have caused controversy.

In February an American Airlines flight to Philadelphia was cancelled after the pilot was arrested on suspicion of being drunk.

The 62-year-old unnamed crew member was detained at Manchester Airport on 7 February and flight AA735 to the US was canned as a result.

American Airlines apologised for the disruption and said in a statement: “We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement and further questions should be referred to them.”