Indian low-cost airline SpiceJet grounded two of its pilots after they allegedly consumed coffee and pastries inside the cockpit – a snack break that could have gone horribly wrong had one of the hot drinks spilled.
A photograph showing an uncovered cup with the airline’s logo placed dangerously close to the control levers inside the cockpit sparked outrage among the aviation community in India and online.
The pilots, whose faces were not shown in the image, also held gujiyas – a sweet fried pastry typically eaten during the Hindu festival Holi, which took place on March 8 this year.
A SpiceJet spokesperson told CNN on Friday that both pilots have been taken off the roster pending an inquiry.
“SpiceJet has a strict policy (regarding) consumption of food inside the cockpit which is adhered by all flight crew. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Shakti Lumba, a retired pilot and former head of operations of Indian carrier IndiGo, said the “feel-good social media photo-op” from the pilots was “immature” and “undesirable,” especially as they are responsible for the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
“It was totally inexplicable behavior. All pilots are aware of the dangers of spilled liquids in the cockpit,” he told CNN, adding that most company rules and aviation regulations prohibit placing any foods and liquids on the central pedestal console.
Underneath that console is a vast array of electrical wiring that is vital to controlling the plane – and spilling piping hot drinks on it might cause technical equipment to overheat or trigger the system to shut down.
CNN has reached out to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for comment on the incident.
The budget carrier has faced a slew of incidents last year, prompting several investigations from the aviation regulator.
Last May, a SpiceJet plane’s autopilot malfunctioned and caused severe turbulence that led to multiple onboard injuries.
The regulator also ordered to halve the carrier’s operational flights for a period of eight weeks after being involved in at least eight technical malfunction, CNN affiliate News 18 reported in July 2022.