3 July, 2022


SriLankan Airlines Breathalyzer Fiasco: Pilots Say “We Ain’t Striking Just Simply Doing Our Jobs”

“We are not going on any strike, but merely going to complete our flying duties which are stipulated in our monthly rosters only” a member of the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka told Colombo Telegraph yesterday.

SriLankan AirlinesThe statement was made as the ALPGSL held a press briefing last evening highlighting the stance they have opted to take. This is regarding the national carrier’s suspension of their member Capt. Sujith Jayasekara’s flying duties for his alleged refusal to comply with a breathalyzer test carried out by the security personnel of the airline prior to his flight departure to Bangkok on the 28th of August 2016.

The stance taken by the pilots of SriLankan Airlines to not fly on their off days and extend flying duty periods will certainly have the national carrier cancelling flights due to the shortage of pilots.

This is an area that the senior management of the airline has taken for granted despite the fact that the pilots have supported the airline maintain its flying schedule over a considerable period of time. Currently nine more pilots have tendered their resignation and are scheduled to join other airlines.

“If flights get cancelled or there is any disruption to the airline’s operation then the onus should be directed at Chairman Dias and CEO.Ratwatte and not us pilots” the Pilots Guild member said.

Continuing to speak to Colombo Telegraph on condition of anonymity as he is not permitted to speak to the media the Pilots Guild member said “Sadly Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe has been misled once again by Chairman Ajith Dias and CEO Capt.Suren Ratwatte. If going to work and complying to what’s been asked of you is being defined as going on strike, then the definition of ‘strike’ will perhaps need to be redefined. In our letter to the CEO Capt.Ratwatte all we have stated is that we will take all necessary actions to protect our membership. We have not stated we are going to strike”.

“What many have failed to understand is that Chairman Dias and CEO Capt.Suren Ratwatte has been badly managing the airline ever since they have taken over the reins. Chairman Dias and CEO Ratwatte have now shown no mercy for us. Why should we support the two of them in return? We have no issues with any other member of the board of directors. After supporting the airline throughout all they choose to do is continue to victimize us. Capt. Sujith Jayaskara’s incident is a classic example here. They appointed unqualified security personnel from within the airline to carry out breathalyzer tests on us. Capt. Jayasekara, one of our most respected and distinguished pilots simply asked these security personnel a series of questions. All they did was squirm and permit them to go on their way and operate their flight as they felt uncomfortable with the questions being asked. If the pilots were drunk then they should have been stopped. Why is the security personnel not suspended too from their jobs like they have now done to Capt.Jayasekara pending this investigation? ” he asked.

Earlier Capt. Jayasekara wrote to the ALPGSL highlighting excerpts of his conversation regarding the sequence of events that took place between him, his co-pilot and the security personnel prior to his departure to Bangkok.

Published below is his letter.

Crew – Capt – S. J. Jayasekera
F/O – Rahul Madurapperuma
Flight _ UL 402 Airbus A321 CMB/BKK
Place – Srilankan Airlines Flight Control Centre
Time – Approximately 0015hrs onwards

Events – Both crew members came to the Airport together quite early. Since I had to attend on a few matters at the checking in counters, I requested my First Officer to proceed to the FCC. I reported to FCC around 0010hrs. when I came to the briefing counter the FCC Supervisor Mr. Sidath informed me that there was a team awaiting to carry out a breathalyzer check on UL402 crew. Then I asked him is it only our flight, to which he said No, the crew of UL553 was also checked. Then I requested to send the team before me.
Three gentlemen came in front of me and following are the questions posed by me ,and the answers given by them.

Q1. Can you please identify your selves.- They identified as two of them from Srilankan security of which one was the Duty Manager Security and the third person from Srilankan Security Investigations.
Q2. I asked whether this test is only on our flight?
A2. No Captain we also did UL553.
Q3. I have been now talking to you, and for you to check me , do I smell of any alcohol?
A3. No Captain not at all.
Q4. Have you got any information to say that I have been partying or consuming liquor before this flight?
A4. No Nothing like that Captain.
Q5. Did you at least get any anonymous call or a message stating that I was consuming liquor before this flight ?
A5. No Captain
Q6. In which case you are trying to breathalyzer test on me without any suspicion?
A6. Yes we have been asked to do so.

Then I stated – that it doesn’t seem the correct way to do, because there could be religious people who have never touched alcohol, like some Muslim persons and they could get offended. Further it could amount to a violation of human rights and disrespect to human dignity. However if you still want me to do this test I would do it. But under the above circumstances if I do this test, I may not be in a proper frame of mind to operate the flight as I would be doing something against my conscious.
Final response – the team stated – Captain there is no need to do this test you can carry on and do the flight wishing us “ Have a Good Flight Captain“ .Thanking them we continued and departed one minute ahead of schedule to Bangkok.

Earlier the ALPGSL wrote officially to the CEO.Capt Ratwatte stating that Capt. Sujith Jayasekara should be re-instated immediately and also stated that the procedure of conducting the breathalyzer tests be reviewed.

The ALPGSL also wrote to the Director General H.M.C.Niamalasiri of the Civil Aviation Authority and requested him to suspended the flawed breathalyzer test procedure that was being enforced.

The Director General then summoned a meeting at the CAA office last morning and a new procedure was implemented with the consent of all three stake holders present, which were the CAA, the management of the airline and members of the ALPGSL.

Fearing the eventual repercussions that may arise due to flights being cancelled, the Head of Flight Operations Capt. Rajind Ranatunga in a last ditch effort wrote to his pilots yesterday.

His letter is found below.

Dear Colleagues,

I write with reference to the meeting I had yesterday with fellow flight crew members, and I wish to reiterate that we must all unite and work towards the common goal of protecting the image of our national carrier. It is vital that we strive towards this, especially at this juncture where the national carrier is about to embark on a public-private partnership.
Therefore I urge my fellow pilots not to make any hasty decisions which will not stand in good stead in the eye of the public, the shareholder, fellow employees and any future business partner. We at Flight Operations management always believe that any disagreement can be resolved through dialogue and we urge you to take this path.

Warm regards,

Captain Rajind Ranatunga
Head of Flight Operations
SriLankan Airlines Ltd.
Flight Operations, Airline Centre, Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, Sri Lanka.

” May be like Member of Parliament Hirunika Premachandra stated yesterday, ‘ Justice was served today for my father Bharatha Lakshman’s murder because of the intervention of our President Maithripala Sirisena’. Perhaps even us pilots may need his Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena’s timely intervention to get justice done for our national carrier. Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s trusted and appointed men Chairman Ajith Dias and CEO Capt.Suren Ratwatte currently don’t have a clue on how to run this airline” concluded our source within the Pilots Guild.

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Latest comments

  • 15

    A glorified bus driver in an “intellectual” argument with a security guard ! WOW how the mighty have fallen .

  • 12

    What they are sying is we are not happy because of that we work to the rule.

  • 6

    “We Ain’t Striking Just Simply Doing Our Jobs”

    I think he meant to say
    “We Ain’t Stinking (of arrack) Just Simply Doing Our Jobs”

  • 5

    Take hirunika’s route. Or else no one can send out the big headed good for nothing senior management of the company especially the head of hr the womanizer and head of service delivery olagama. The biggest womanizers of the company. Waste products! Please captains meet the president and request to reinstate the weliamuna findings and take proper action against the culprits. I am a current employer of the air line- it’s very heart breaking to see all the losers dancing with the country’s money.

  • 10

    The sad irony here is that there was no action from the pilots when Sri Lankan was being run to the ground during the last government. Unfortunately the pilots seem to be taking the high ground when all is not well within the ALPGSL, clearly a lot of them are very unprofessional and corrupt, we have seen so many cases of this. Hopefully a new Airline partners Sri Lankan and runs it professionally.

    • 3

      Big mouths open when there is freedom of speech.

  • 3

    Just withdraw that “Boorish” suspension of Capt. Jayasekera and settle this storm in a tea cup. Please don’t forget this is our National Carrier and it is some thing more than a air transport business. The Management must not be insensitive to the need to handle affairs relating to Flying Crew.

  • 18

    All this is down to the captains arrogance. Its standard practice in the airline industry to carry our random breath tests on flight deck crew. Its for the safety of the crew and passengers. So can’t see what the said Captain’s problem was apart from a superiority complex that sadly exists in the pilot community.
    There was a recent case in the UK in Glasgow where two pilots were breathalysed and found to be over the limit and were arrested at the airport. This is as I said earlier standard practice in the airline industry. If a so called pilot has a problem with it then he should consider another profession.

  • 9

    All this is down to the captains arrogance. Its standard practice in the airline industry to carry our random breath tests on flight deck crew. Its for the safety of the crew and passengers. So can’t see what the said Captain’s problem was apart from a superiority complex that sadly exists in the pilot community.

    Furthermore there is some history with this particular pilot and the CEO……

    There was a recent case in the UK in Glasgow where two pilots were breathalysed and found to be over the limit and were arrested at the airport. This is as I said earlier standard practice in the airline industry. If a so called pilot has a problem with it then he should consider another profession.

  • 9

    The travelers will feel very safe if the pilots are subject to the breatherlizer tests. Pilots are just glorified taxi drivers and there is nothing wrong in subjecting them to this test especially considering the importance of being able to fly a plane without being under the influence of liquor. The incident recently where the pilot did not turn up in time to fly the plane because he was drunk is a disgrace to the SL airline pilots and in order to protect the reputation of the airline this test is fair and must be undertaken. I will not travel SL airlines in the future because THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THE SL PILOTS COULD BE DRUNK GIVEN THE PAST RECORD.

  • 10

    With the future of Sri Lankan airlines future under a cloud it baffles me why the ALPGSL is opting to unofficial Trade Union action. Shouldnt they be more concerned of the fate of their jobs than the dispute that is prevailing.Are they some super pilots that the prospective partner of Sri Lankan which ever airline (the prospective bidders maybe closely watching the happenings) it is will absorb them in a market which is saturated having more supply than demand.

    I remember a film which I watched several moons ago with Victor Mature portraying the role of Samson in the movie “Samson and Delilah” and in the final scenes Samson is blind and in his rage he uses his maximum strength to bring the whole edifice down.

  • 0

    There appears to be a misunderstanding in regard to my comment made earlier requesting to withdraw the suspension order. I am not favouring anyone in making that request. I only go by the fact that Pilot was “ALLOWED” to operate the flight and that specifically exonerated him of the suspected “drunkenness or “smell of Alcohol”. Also he operated the flight without any “incidents” and there was no reason to “suspend” him while at the waiting time to operate the return flight. If at all any “suspicion” or a “confrontation” arose at the time this pilot reported to operate the flight; the people who “allowed” him to go free must be taken to task. That is my opinion on that matter.

    Many other comments in condemnation of the Pilots, refer to them as “Drivers”. Yes they are “Drivers”; but please understand that as a matter of fact any “Driver” (Plane/Road Vehicle/Machinery etc) is a SKILLED person. Do you remember how a Pilot saved 225 lives in landing on the Hudson Bay river in USA on Jan.15, 2009, when all the engines stopped functioning. Also do you remember how a Germanwings pilot “Crashed” a flight willfully and killed all the passenger on board to avenge his frustrations. That was called a “suicide” landing. Many incidents are on record as regards these flight operations. That is why I said, these types of “Drivers” have to be handled with restraint and patience, if not any “disaster” could happen. On the other hand, if matters are handled “skilfully” and maintain a “contended” group of “Drivers”, ingenious and skillful operations would be forthcoming. Also please note, it is not that easy to become a Pilot or as some prefer to call a “Driver” of an air plane.

  • 8

    Fly SIA, and let the Sri Lankan pilots drive private busses in COlombo.

  • 2

    these [Edited out]plane jockeys , who forgot their Ellena Ata, when MR’s BiL was landing there Coffee , Tea or Me’s , now have suddenly found them under Yahapalanaya , and want to drive their planes while drunk, using auto pilot !
    should be all drawn and quartered or at least fired![Edited out]

  • 3

    Listen to this speech of PM, Singapore on SIA pilots strike….


  • 5

    “…………..proper frame of mind to operate the flight…………”
    Fight times are fixed.
    How does a pilot acquire a ‘proper frame of mind’ to carry out his duties?

    Breathalyser tests are randomly administrated on vehicle drivers, same as on airline pilots.
    Also after an event causing suspicion of ‘being impaired’, in many countries.
    It is the duty of pilots to submit to random tests not to ‘protect the image of the airline’ but to reassure passengers.

  • 6

    There is a surplus or glut of qualified pilots in the market now. These egotistical Sinhala boys can easily be replaced by qualified Indians desperate for work or even Arab pilots. These pilots are mad that their days of milking the system are over under CEO and Chairman.

    Even their flings with stewardesses is coming to an end. They all love the revenue losing long distance European flights. They get all the massive allowances and fancy accomodation even if they live in Bamba flats at home. They get to shop and make lots of money. If these people are so much in demand we dare you find jobs in global airlines like Emirates, Ethihad, or Qatar of even Jet. No instead they are spewing their jealousy at the CEO.

  • 4

    It’s quite normal for people to turn up drunk to work in Sri Lanka, especially the folks who think they are above the law.

    [Edited out]

    I would gladly do a breathalyzer test to reassure the passengers that I am fit to fly a plane. I can put my last dollar that the Snr captain who refused had way too much to drink the night before the flight and resorted to some clever tactic to avoid getting the sack. Suren the CEO never drank the day before he flew, I used to party with him.

    You really cannot expect any discipline from a lawless society like our good old Sri Lanka. Hence why I choose to live overseas and calling my self a Pissa… Ha ha.

    I for one would avoid this airline as I know the pilot who flies me home might be having a hangover and I might not make it to Colombo over xmas…. What a way to go, when I know Emirates will do the job better.
    Ask CEO Suren, he used to fly for them Emirates and these pathetic pilots, want to follow the example set by our beloved MPs in parliament. I am sure he might be regretting working for these bunch of losers and longing to driving planes again…
    Good luck buddie

  • 1

    Suren n Ajith should be thought to speak to the employees first

  • 0

    Why refuse a breath test? It was conducted on an earlier flight crew as well. ..I think the capt. Should not have refused. Probably the security got some information about the crew partying . He should have undergone the test to prove that he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol.

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