A private Indian airline has grounded two of its pilots for allegedly having coffee and sweets inside the cockpit of a flight mid-journey.
The incident came to light after a purported photo of an open cup placed on the control panel of a SpiceJet aircraft went viral earlier this week.
Reports said the flight was cruising at 37,000ft at the time of the picture.
The photo sparked outrage, prompting India’s aviation regulator to issue a warning to the airline.
SpiceJet on Wednesday said it was looking into the matter and had taken two pilots, who allegedly took the picture, off-duty.
“Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against them upon completion of an investigation,” an airline spokesperson told The Times of India newspaper.
Indian aviation rules allow pilots and crew to have food and beverages inside the cockpit but under strict guidelines. For instance, all cups need to have lids and be carried on a tray to avoid spillage.
The latest incident reportedly took place on board a flight flying from Delhi to the north-eastern city of Guwahati on 8 March, the day of the Hindu festival of Holi.
The photograph showed an uncovered coffee cup, which had the airline’s logo, dangerously placed on a start lever of the aircraft, while the pilots, who are not visible in the picture, had gujiyas – a sweet fried pastry traditionally had on Holi.
The post vent viral and sparked anger on social media, with people criticising the pilots for their reckless behaviour.
“Even the slightest turbulence and coffee spills on to the electronics, it will foul the systems. This is a criminal act,” said aviation expert Mohan Ranganathan, who reportedly first shared the picture on Twitter.
On Tuesday, India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, took note of the photograph and asked SpiceJet to immediately identify the crew members.
While two pilots have been grounded since then, a SpiceJet spokesperson told The Hindu newspaper that they were still trying to ascertain the exact timeline of the incident.
“It is not clear from the post when was the photograph taken, whether it is recent or old, the sector being operated or the crew or even the aircraft in question. We are trying to ascertain these details,” the airline said.