China’s aviation regulator is looking into an alleged mid-air dispute between crew members on a recent Donghai Airlines domestic flight, it said late on Monday, vowing severe punishment for any action that endangered flight safety.
Donghai Airlines said it had immediately suspended the crew members involved in the fight and launched a safety rectification campaign to plug loopholes in safety management.
Neither the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) nor the airline provided details of the incident.
But the incident went viral on social media after an aviation-focused WeChat account reported a fight had broken out between the captain and a cabin crew member on flight DZ6297 from Nantong to Xian 50 minutes before it landed on Feb. 20.
Donghai Airlines suspends pilot & attendant— @KassMedefer (@KMedefer) March 8, 2021
The fight left the male flight attendant with a broken arm & the pilot with a missing tooth, the fight began after a passenger ignored instructions to return to their seat during a dispute over the toilet in the first class section , pic.twitter.com/jO580o83oN
The fight between the two men broke out after a passenger was in the corridor outside a bathroom being used by the crew, media outlet Caixin said, citing industry sources.
The captain blamed the head flight attendant for not clearing his way to the bathroom and accused him of neglecting his duties, Caixin reported.
Passengers are not allowed to come near the bathroom when pilots use the toilet because of the risk of assault which could lead to a safety emergency, veteran pilot Chen Jianguo told Caixin.
Donghai Airlines had previously attracted attention on social media when one of its pilots allowed his wife to enter the cockpit to steal a ride.
China is a stickler for aviation safety, after maintaining a strong safety record for over a decade. Small misdemeanors by airline staff are usually punished severely.