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Costs of Drug Testing Hurting Financially Troubled Airline Industry


July 1993

The cost of widespread drug testing for pilots and other airline employees is hurting the industry and placing U.S. carriers at a competitive disadvantage to foreign carriers that do not require such testing, a prominent aviation executive and a union representative told a national airline commission recently ("Airlines' Random Testing Rate Should Be Lower, Southwest CEO Tells National Airline Commission," Terry Peters, Editor, The National Report On Substance Abuse, 6/18/93, Vol. 7, No. 14, p. 1).

Southwest Airlines chief Herbert Kelleher told the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry that with only 0.44 percent of the random drug tests of airline employees in sensitive positions reported positive in 1991, it made no sense to force airlines to continue widespread testing. Gordon Ingraham of the United Auto Workers aerospace division echoed Kelleher in protesting the high cost of random testing. He said UAW backs probable-cause testing, which arises when there is probable cause to believe an employee is using illegal drugs. A similar view was reflected by Dee Maki, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. That organization favors pre-employment and probable-cause testing, Maki told the commission. Southwest's Kelleher also complained that in addition to the intrinsic costs of random testing, it creates a competitive disadvantage against foreign air carriers who do not conduct such tests.

The remarks came during a June 2 meeting. The commission was created by Congress last year to study problems facing the U.S. airline industry.