May 24, 2007

New Mexico cites US Airways in DWI incident

US Airways received a second administrative citation in six months from the New Mexico Regulation and License Department for an incident Friday when a passenger traveling from Phoenix to Albuquerque was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving shortly after landing.

Andrea Rader, US Airways spokeswoman, said Wednesday the citation did not suspend a temporary liquor license the airline currently operates under for flights in and out of New Mexico.

The effect of the second citation on a decision to grant a permanent license is unknown, Rader said. Once the state department makes a decision, the liquor license issue goes before the Albuquerque City Council. .

"We want do to the right thing," Rader said, although the impact of the two citations and the process of resolving them "is not clear.".

US Airways is investing allegations that a passenger traveling from Phoenix to Albuquerque was so intoxicated when he got off the flight that he later was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving..

Andrea Rader, US Airways spokewoman, said, "we take this very seriously and are moving with all deliberate speed."

The airline couldn't confirm what police were told or say how long its investigation would take.

U.S. Airways received an administrative citation last year after a passenger was involved in a fatal traffic collision near Santa Fe..

"There are federal regulations and, of course, and our own policies about serving someone who's obviously intoxicated," Rader said, adding, "it's a robust part of our flight attendant initial and recurrent training."

There have been instances when obviously drunk passengers have not been allowed on planes, she said.

According to press reports, a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy said 49-year-old Ernest Wright of Albuquerque had a blood alcohol content of 0.16 percent, twice the state's legal limit. Wright was arrested Friday on suspicion of aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Wright apparently told police he had been drinking at Sky Harbor International Airport and continued drinking on his US Airways flight.

US Airways was issued an administrative citation for a Nov. 11 traffic crash when a recent passenger drove the wrong way on Interstate 25 near Santa Fe killing five members of a Las Vegas family and himself.

Rader said the airline was cited "for over serving Papst and was issued a cease-and-desist order to stop serving alcohol on flights in and out of New Mexico until it received a state liquor license."

Reach The Arizona Republic reporter Christia Gibbons at or (480) 600-6701.


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