Aeroflot Flight 315 was about to depart from Moscow Dec. 28 but the pilot's pre-flight address was slurred and garbled, leading passengers, including a Moscow Times reporter and socialite-TV host Ksenia Sobchak, to believe the pilot was drunk and demand he be taken from the controls, the Times reported Tuesday.
After an hour of arguments with the flight crew, all four pilots were replaced. The pilot, Alexander Cheplevsky, emerged from the cockpit red-faced with bloodshot eyes and was unsteady on his feet, passengers told the Times.
Aeroflot officials, however, deny Cheplevsky was drunk. Three weeks after the incident, the airline issued a statement saying he might have suffered a stroke immediately before the flight. Aeroflot told reporters tests administered after the incident found no signs of intoxication.
The airline said immediately after the incident it would sue Sobchak, who had urged the pilot be removed, if the costs of delaying the flight were "very large," the newspaper said.