Pilots held for suspected drinking before Glasgow to Toronto flight
Two television personalities whose flight from Scotland to Toronto was postponed by a day after both pilots were arrested on suspicion of drunkenness said they were frustrated by the delay but relieved that their safety wasn’t jeopardized.
Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan — best known for their interior design shows on HGTV and other networks — were among the passengers whose travel plans were derailed by the arrest of two Air Transat pilots at Glasgow Airport on Monday, shortly before the flight was due to take off.
“The airline actually did the right thing, they made sure that we weren’t flying with these people, they made sure that people were looked after last night and I think they tried to take away as much of the hassle as possible,” McAllister said after they landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport.
The pair, who are from Glasgow but also own homes in Toronto and the Muskoka region, said passengers were waiting for hours in the airport lounge before the flight was officially cancelled due to “operational” issues.
“We all thought it was a technical issue but it turns out it was human error,” McAllister said.
Air Transat confirmed two crew members were arrested but declined to comment further, saying it will “await the results of the investigation and judicial proceedings.”
Police in Scotland said the pilots, aged 37 and 39, were charged with being “impaired through alcohol.”
The BBC identified them as Imran Zafar Syed and Jean-Francois Perrault. The Scottish Sun newspaper reported that the pair was charged under section 93 of the United Kingdom’s Railway and Transport Safety Act.
That regulation precludes people from conducting aviation functions “at a time when the proportion of alcohol in (their) breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.”
The newspaper said the pilots were denied bail after being deemed a flight risk.
Canadian aviation regulations prohibit any aircraft crew members from working while intoxicated or within eight hours after having an alcoholic drink.
The Air Line Pilots Association, International, which represents airline pilots, said it does not comment on ongoing investigations but stressed that instances of substance abuse are “extremely rare” among its roughly 53,000 pilot members, including those who fly for Air Transat.
“The airline piloting profession in North America is one of the most highly scrutinized careers, and airline pilots’ professionalism has contributed to making flying the safest form of transport for passengers and air cargo shippers,” the association said in an email.
Passengers were put up in hotels while they waited for a new flight to Toronto on Tuesday, the airline said.
McAllister said they were also given an airline voucher worth a few hundred dollars and that, for the most part, passengers seemed to take the disruption in stride.
But others took issue with what they considered a lack of transparency from the airline.
“When we arrived this morning, they didn’t give us any further information until we saw it in the newspaper,” said Fahra Murad, who lives in Toronto. “They should have kept us informed from the beginning so that we knew what we were facing up against.”
Murad said the delay cost her a day of vacation since she wasn’t able to return to work on schedule.
Air Transat runs charter and scheduled flights between Canada and several European and Caribbean destinations.
Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, Scottish interior decorators and television presenters, arrive at Pearson Airport. The pair were aboard the flight who’s pilots were arrested on the plane.