American Airlines Crew Member Fined for Exceeding Alcohol Limit by 4 Times

May 8, 2019 Updated: May 8, 2019

A flight attendant working for one of the world’s largest airlines is being fined for showing up to work well over the blood alcohol limit on Dec. 12, 2018.

American Airlines stewardess Cynthia Struble, 64, was measured at London’s Heathrow Airport to have 93 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, meaning she was four times over the 20 mg legal limit for air crew.

Airport staff caught the Texan woman, who usually lives in Dallas, while passing through the security checkpoint with her coworkers about 9:30 a.m. local time. There was a problem with her bag during the X-ray machine screening process, so the security officer spoke with her and quickly noticed Struble’s strong smell of alcohol.

Although security guard Angela Klaire tried to ask Struble to sit down, she kept walking away. Eventually London policeman Anthony Elsmere caught up with the woman on the bridge between Terminal 3 and the plane to test her blood alcohol level.

Klaire’s statement confirmed she asked Struble to sit down so the security guard could radio her manager. The security manager arrived and female cabin crew were then transported to a coach.

The suspect initially pleaded not guilty at an April court hearing but did not show up to a trial scheduled at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on May 7.

Struble’s defense lawyer David Sonn argued there was no case to answer because the evidence was purely based on statements from Klaire and Elsmere.

“A member of air crew who was going through security smelt of alcohol, that’s in short the high point of the crown’s case,” Sonn said according to the Daily Mail. “The high point of the crown’s case in relation to Ms. Klaire is that she searched a member of American Airlines crew—that’s all.”

Police charged Struble with being over the blood alcohol limit while carrying out an ancillary activity to aviation function.

“The reason why we’ve been contacted [was Klaire said] ‘I could smell alcohol on her breath’ although she was able to converse, no other signs of being under the influence, she provided positive samples, she was arrested,” Elsmere said in his statement.

Sonn argued there was “literally no” evidence to confirm there was a scheduled flight allocated.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that there was a scheduled flight allocated but the fundamental submission if all the others are rejected is that we have to be sure that the defendant was performing an activity,” he said. “She was standing on her head for all we know.”

Chairman of the Bench Philip Newton dismissed all of Sonn’s arguments for the defendant to not be fined for performing an aviation function.

Newton explained there was “beyond reasonable doubt” Struble was turning up for work because she was wearing her full uniform and police were confident they arrested the right crew member.

“The bench are sure that Ms. Struble was the same person at security and who was arrested. We are also sure the person was the same person reporting for duty,” Newton said.

Struble was fined £660 ($862.74), ordered to pay £320 ($418.30) in prosecution costs, and a £66 ($86.27) victim surcharge.

The prosecuting team welcomed the decision, after arguing authorities had a duty of care to the passengers and the crew members.

“It is irresponsible for security staff and police to be allowing someone who is suspected of drinking alcohol to be allowed on the flight in the first place—preparing food or serving food—hence in this case Ms. Struble was stopped on the gate to the plane,” prosecutor Cheiran Mondal said, according to the Daily Mail. “We’ve not heard from Ms. Struble, she’s not here to give evidence—she doesn’t need to give evidence, she’s also a woman of good character, and the court should take notice of that. The crown would maintain that’s sufficient evidence.”

Pilots and cabin crew are banned from drinking alcohol within eight hours of take-off, a rule also known as “bottle-to-throttle.” They are also not allowed to help operate an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol.

United States law enforces a limit of 40 mg.