New China air menace: Pilots who fight on flight

BEIJING • After a series of flight disruptions caused by angry or unruly passengers, Chinese media yesterday revealed a new menace to air travel in the country: fighting pilots.

Two of them came to blows in the cockpit of a China United Airlines (CUA) flight in June, official news agency Xinhua reported.

Few details - such as the route the budget airline was operating, or how many people were on board - were available.

The incident only came to light when it was mentioned in passing in a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announcement of CUA's punishment - a 10 per cent cut in its flying hours and a ban on new routes.

The airline sought to play down concerns, saying the pilots had only "some physical contact" due to a misunderstanding and denying it escalated into a fight, the report said.

But CUA said the pair had been grounded for six months.

Unruly passenger behaviour regularly makes headlines in Chinese media as air travel booms, with unfamiliar or drunken travellers even sometimes trying to open doors in mid-flight.

The industry also scores poorly for customer satisfaction, with constant flight delays topping the list of complaints.

In January, Chinese police detained 25 angry passengers who opened aircraft emergency exit doors before take-off after their flight was delayed by snow.

The previous month, a budget flight from Thailand to China was forced to return to Bangkok after a Chinese passenger threw hot water at a cabin attendant.

CUA has had a string of safety incidents this year, including three in June and July that "seriously violated regulations", Xinhua cited the CAAC as saying.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'New China air menace: Pilots who fight on flight'. Print Edition | Subscribe