July 22, 2024

In one of the worst travel-related decisions since a party of pilgrims in the Rockies listened to George and Jacob Donner when they said, “We know a shortcut,” a British Airways co-pilot has been fired after indulging in a drug and booze binge the night before he was due to captain an international flight – and then bragging to a crew member about it.


Mike Beaton, a pilot with British Airways, had a night off after a flight to Johannesburg last month that he used to indulge in large amounts of alcohol and snort cocaine off the chest of a topless woman, according to a report from the New York Post.

Beaton, a married father of one, according to the report, revealed his night of antics to a fellow crew member before a return flight to London, telling her that he had been a “very naughty boy” during an exchange of text messages.

“Naughty Boy” just doesn’t give one the whole picture. But at least he learned one thing, and that is that alcohol is the best solvent; it dissolves marriages and careers. He should have drawn the line at cocaine, though. 

It’s unclear as to whether Mike Beaton’s co-partiers face any consequences for putting their business in other people’s noses.

It gets better, though: Apparently, this was a binge-worthy of a 1960s rock & roll band on tour.

The pilot reportedly told the flight attendant in the text exchange that he had met two local men, a Welsh woman and a “young Spanish bird” at a Johannesburg nightclub the night before, when they engaged in hours of drinking and eventually found themselves at one of the men’s apartment.

“Welsh has decided that I should actually be her boyfriend — Spanish has hooked up with one of the two local lads and is having her t–s sucked on their sofa,” Beaton told his fellow crew member. 

The pilot continued to boast that the “girls” were dancing topless when someone arrived with cocaine, leading him to take a “bump” of the drug himself.

“I’ve lost my shirt somewhere and one of the local lads produces a plate with a few lines of coke,” Beaton said. “So then there’s a debate about whose chest is the best to do a bump off.”


This is one of the greatest displays of poor judgment since General George Custer kicked his horse to a gallop at the Little Big Horn, shouting “Come on, boys, we’ve got them right where we want them!”

According to a British Airways spokesman, Mr. Beaton has been fired. No kidding.

“Of all the bad behavior that goes on downroute between flights, this incident is hard to believe,” the source told the outlet. “A first officer is trained rigorously and knows the law inside out. Their remit is protecting the safety of passengers.

“The idea of sending details of his drink and drugs session to a stewardess between flights is extraordinarily dumb,” the source added.

Beaton was reportedly suspended while still in Johannesburg and flown back to London as a passenger on another flight. Once there, he tested positive for the cocaine and was fired.

It’s unclear which part of this cavalcade of error is worse, that fact that a (married, by the way) man in this position of responsibility would engage in behavior like this the night before a flight, or that he would do it in Johannesburg, which is not one of the world’s safest cities, or that – and this is the really baffling one – he would text another crew member the details. The word “stupid” just doesn’t seem to do this justice.


Fortunately, Mr. Beaton wasn’t allowed on the plane the next day; in this case, it’s not true that with great powder comes great responsibility.

I spent some time working in Johannesburg in 2010. It was, then, an extremely dangerous place, especially if you were a person of pallor; the young Afrikaner couple that owned the B&B I was lodged in warned me about the dangers of leaving the walled compound. The husband described the flow of refugees out of Zimbabwe that was happening at the time and showed me an article in a local English-language paper presenting statistics showing one was safer walking down a street in Baghdad than in Jo’Burg at that moment. I believed him; the B&B was surrounded by a ten-foot concrete wall topped with razor wire, and the pharmaceutical plant I was there to audit was similarly surrounded.  Unless that situation has improved, add “getting blackout drunk in Jo’Burg with a bunch of strangers” to the list of acts of horrendously poor judgment this guy indulged in.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with a small drink – maybe a marteenie – the evening before work. It’s OK to stop and smell the rosé. But the wild romp with strange folks, not to mention the cocaine, that’s snort a good idea.


Since the man in question will never fly again, maybe he can get a job as a mechanic. He apparently knows his way around a screwdriver.

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