GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 20 passengers on a Malindo Air flight bound for Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur disembarked from the aircraft minutes before take-off after hearing what they claimed was "a loud argument from the cockpit".
A passenger said seven of them eventually decided not to continue with their flight from Penang's Bayan Lepas International Airport, while the rest went back on board after the pilot apologised.
The one-hour flight with the remaining 52 passengers finally departed at 10.30pm on Thursday after a 50-minute delay, and landed safely in Subang.
However, a Facebook post of the incident, supposedly written by a friend of one of the passengers, had since gone viral.
A passenger, who only wished to be known as Mr Kee, said they heard a loud yell from the cockpit when a stewardess opened its door to come out.
"Apparently, the pilot and the co-pilot were having a serious fight. It was so loud that all the passengers were shocked," said Mr Kee in an interview here on Friday.
"A foreigner sitting on the front row then stood up and asked for permission to leave the aircraft. About 20 of us followed him.
"We went into the airport building and after a while, the pilot came down from the plane to apologise to us and invited us back on board," said Mr Kee, who often flies on the airline between Kuala Lumpur and Penang for work.
While most of the passengers chose to go back, Mr Kee said he and six others, including the foreigner, felt that both the pilot and co-pilot were unfit to fly due to their emotional condition.
He said they later lodged a report at the airport police base.
Apologising for the delay and misunderstanding, Malindo public relations and communications director Raja Sa'adi Raja said the situation could have been misinterpreted.
"From both the voyage report of the flight and our understanding, the captain was instructing a third observer-trainee pilot in a stern manner as he and the co-pilot prepared for take-off.
"However, upon hearing the loud instruction, a passenger decided to offload himself from the aircraft due to reasons unknown to us.
"About 18 others followed, while most remained on the aircraft.
"Both the captain and co-pilot did as per standard procedures and explained the situation to the passengers.
"The pilots also apologised for the uncomfortable situation that could have been misunderstood by a handful of passengers," he said, adding that the flight departed at 10.30pm with all but the few who decided to take other options.