Read it. Think about it. Talk about it.

This is for you – crew – to do. It is also for you – an operator – to get crew to do on a CRM day, in an interview, during a training flight (not literally, as a hypothetical we mean).

Start here

You are on a layover and have met some of the crew, including the Captain, in the hotel bar for a couple of drinks. When you finish your second beer you let the crew know you’re heading to bed, but can’t help noticing the Captain has had a fair few more than you already.

You chose not to say anything because there are still several hours left before you even encroach on the 12 hours to report, let alone the 8 hours.

The next morning, you head down to the lobby to meet all the crew and to get the bus to the airport. The Captain is the last to arrive and looks a little dishevelled. He is also smelling strongly of way too much cheap aftershave and coffee. Thinking nothing of it, you head to the airport.

It is only when you are stood beside him and he removes his jacket that you catch the smell he must have been trying to mask. Alcohol.

First Decision

What are you going to do?

If you want to tell the Captain to head back to the hotel

If you want to just talk and see what’s up

If you want to report him now

Tell the Captain to call sick

OK, great, so you tell the Captain to get back to the hotel immediately. Maybe not a bad call, after all security is next and they are trained to spot things like this. If you smelt the booze, they will too, and they get arrested and you will probably have some explaining to do as well if you haven’t said anything.

But what then? The flight will be cancelled, but safe. But are you going to report the Captain to your company? What if they do again? What if they have serious home life issues that led to this – are you the best to help or should you ask someone else to get involved?

If you are going to call the company yourself

If you just aren’t sure

Have a chat

OK, good call. Try and find out what is going on. When did they leave the bar? Do they seem to have anything going on in their life that might be causing excess drinking? Do they think they should maybe call sick…?

But what if they don’t? What if one of the cabin crew or airport staff sniff them too? And how are you really going to work out if they are drunk or not, because that is really what you need to do.

If you think you should get them to call sick

If you want to report them

Report them!

So you’re heading straight in and reporting them for possibly, maybe being drunk?
OK, well, you’re covered and its safe, and if they haven’t been drinking then they have nothing to worry about with the breathalyser test…
But if they have this is career ending, possibly jail time for them, and what if they have things going on in their home life, stresses, family issues?
Is there a better way to approach this?

If not, if you definitely want to report them then

If you want to try something else first


It is a really tough call. You have to protect the safety of the flight, your crew, yourself. You have a responsibility if you have concerns to say something.
But it is a big deal! It means ending a career, impacting their family… and of course, they are the one to blame but what if there are more factors to this?

And how do you go about minimising the impact to the flight, to the airline’s reputation? What if they are a friend, a respected colleague, someone you know relatively well?

We aren’t saying what is right, this is a tiny simple hypothetical. We’re just saying, think about it.

If you want to think about it some more

Something else…?

We don’t know what is right or wrong here, and you probably won’t until it actually happens (let’s hope it doesn’t). But we do think it is worth thinking about.

If they are defensive, aggressive, argue back then you are probably going to take a different direction then if they clearly have other things going on and share some of those with you.
If it is someone you know, respect, like then it is going to be even tougher.

You are responsible for the safety of the flight and if you have an inkling, then you have to do something. The only think you can’t do is let them get on that flight. Whether you think more action needs to be taken after that is up to you. How you achieve that, the things you consider, and the way you do it – well, who knows what will be the right way?

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