Photo/IllutrationRepresentatives of Japan Airlines Co. apologize at a news conference in Tokyo on Nov. 1. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The government plans to impose stricter regulations on alcohol consumption by flight crew members after a Japan Airlines Co. co-pilot was arrested in Britain for allegedly being drunk shortly before duty.

“We will toughen regulations on alcohol consumption by taking into account drinking limits overseas,” Keiichi Ishii, the minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, said at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 2.

Japanese law bans pilots and co-pilots from consuming alcoholic beverages within eight hours of the start of their duties. But there is no legal standard for breath tests, and airlines set their own rules and limits for internal tests.

Ishii said the government will consider regulations similar to those in overseas nations that specify acceptable limits in alcohol content in breath or blood tests.

“It is regrettable because (the co-pilot’s drinking) could have affected the safe operation of the flight and damaged public confidence in Japanese aviation,” Ishii said. “Strict instructions and supervision will be given to airlines through safety audits and other means.”

JAL on Nov. 1 announced that the co-pilot, 42, was arrested by British authorities at Heathrow Airport on Oct. 28 for failing a police alcohol breath test shortly before a scheduled flight to Tokyo.

About two hours earlier, the co-pilot passed a breath test conducted by JAL along with two pilots.

The airline suspects the co-pilot somehow cheated on the earlier test.

According to JAL, the co-pilot has said he drank two bottles of wine, one red and one rose, three 330-milliliter bottles of beer and two 440-milliliter cans of beer at a hotel lounge and in his hotel room, but said his last drink was up to 20 hours before the flight.