7 October 2000

BA may ask pilots to take breath tests

By Barrie Clement

British Airways is considering the introduction of random breathalyser tests for its pilots and cabin crew.

The airline insisted yesterday that the research on whether to introduce such a system was well under way before it suspended 11 pilots and three cabin crew from duty because of allegations that they had drunk alcohol hours before flying aircraft.

A spokeswoman said the research was prompted by the introduction of random tests in other parts of the transport industry, including the railways.

An internal investigation continued yesterday into allegations by Channel 4's Dispatches programme that pilots drank excessive amounts of alcohol, infringing BA's rules. No UK airline does random testing, but staff are tested in the United States. Pilots' contracts would have to be renegotiated if random tests were introduced in this country.

Although BA does not operate random testing for alcohol, it has dismissed two pilots in the past five years for drink-related incidents.

A BA spokeswoman said: "We have been carrying out research in the UK and abroad for months, following the introduction of random testing in other transport industries. We have taken no decision on it yet. We are neither for nor against. It would be a decision for the long term and we will have to talk to unions."

A spokeswoman for the British Airline Pilots' Association said the union was not aware of any proposals, but would consider any plan for tests put forward by BA.

Under human rights legislation that came into force on Monday, airlines are unlikely to have the right to impose tests on employees.