Greater Manchester Police said it received a report shortly before 11am on Thursday that a American Airlines pilot "may have been under the influence of alcohol".
A 62-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of performing an aviation function when over the prescribed limit of alcohol.
The Flight AA735 to Philadelphia was due to take off at 11.05am but was cancelled following the arrest.
He was bailed pending further inquiries.
American Airlines told reporters: "Safety is our highest priority and we apologise to our customers for the disruption to their travel plans, we have rebooked them on alternative flights.
"We are fully co-operating with local law enforcement and further questions should be referred to them."
It is illegal for pilots in the UK to have more than 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in their system.
The drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg. In Scotland it is 50mg.
In November, a Japanese pilot was given a 10-month prison sentence for being almost 10 times over the alcohol limit while preparing to take off from Heathrow Airport.
First officer Katsutoshi Jitsukawa was caught after security noticed he smelled strongly of alcohol, seemed drunk and had "glazed eyes".