Two Air Transat pilots have been charged on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol just prior to takeoff on a trans-Atlantic flight from Glasgow to Toronto.
The Montreal-based airline said it learned of the arrests on Monday as the flight was scheduled to depart Glasgow airport that afternoon.
“We will await the results of the investigation and judicial proceedings before making any further comments,” spokesman Pierre Tessier said in a statement.
Police Scotland say Jean-Francois Perreault, 39, and Imran Zafar Syed, 37, appeared in court Tuesday, charged with threatening or abusive behaviour and performing an aviation function over the prescribed alcohol limit.
The pair were remanded in custody pending a subsequent court appearance within eight days. Court records list Perreault’s residence only as Ontario, while Syed lives in Toronto.
WATCH: Air Transat pilots accused of being drunk charged in Scotland. Mike Drolet reports.
The airline says passengers were put up in hotels and given $200 compensation. The flight landed in Toronto on Tuesday.
Air Line Pilots Association International, the union representing the pilots, declined to comment on the incident but said substance abuse among its 53,000 member pilots is “extremely rare.”
According to media reports, Air Transat Flight 725 was carrying 345 passengers along with nine crew members.
It is believed the cabin crew raised concerns over the pilots behaviour before the plane’s scheduled takeoff at 1 p.m. local time.
Television personalities 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 grounded by the arrests.
They told reporters upon landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport they were waiting in the boarding lounge for a reported delay that started out as one hour but ended up lasting more than 21.
“It sounds like two people made a mistake, they did something wrong and the airline actually did the right thing. They made sure that we weren’t flying with these people, they made sure we were looked after last night,” McAllister said, adding that “no one was complaining, no one was bellyaching on the plane.”
“It seems like no drama when you’re there and we all thought it was a technical issue.”
Ryan said the crew made “guarded references” to the incident.
“Drinking and driving is not smart, drinking and flying a plane is nothing short of lunacy,” he said.
The pair earlier voiced their frustration on social media while also expressing relief steps were taken to ensure travellers’ safety.
Pilots in Canada are barred by law from drinking eight hours before a flight. Aviation trainer Phyl Durdey said pilots receive not mandatory but random testing for drugs and alcohol under airline rules.
“We are true professionals and there are so many safeguards and rules we can put in place. Unfortunately as soon as something like this happens it does raise that question of why do we not have it,” said Durdey, CEO of Flightline Training Services, which trains mechanics.
But he said cases of drunk pilots are “so rare,” citing one report in the U.S. that found 38 incidents over six years.
Transport Canada said it was reviewing the pilots’ records and Air Transat’s policies and procedures, but that preliminary information indicates steps to protect passenger safety were taken.
Possible enforcement action in Canada could include fines and revoking licenses, but the regulator said it is waiting for the outcome of the Scottish investigation before considering next steps. Disciplinary action in Canada against the pilots is the responsibility of Air Transat, it added.
With files from Peter Kim, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press