A pilot lets his girlfriend sit in the cockpit. She posts it on social media. A blogger notices and complains on Weibo. Outrage grows. Many are punished. The pilot is banned for life. But was the reaction a bit much?
What Is Air Guilin?
The incident occurred on Air Guilin, a Guangx-based airline based at Guilin Liangjiang International Airport. Air Guilin is a joint-venture between troubled HNA, which also owns Hainan and Hong Kong Airlines, and the Guilin Municipal Government. It began flying in 2016 and has a fleet of three Airbus A319 and eight A320.
What Happened Onboard?
On January 4, Air Guilin flight GT1011 took off from Guilin (KWL) to Yangzhou (YTY). Onboard, the captain was traveling with his girlfriend, a flight attendant in training at Guilin University. During the flight (allegedly), the captain allowed her to enter the cockpit, where she posed for the picture below:
She posted the picture on one of her own social media accounts, with the caption, “Thanks to the captain. So happy.”
Although the incident occurred in January, it just went viral this week after a Chinese aviation blogger stumbled upon the picture and wrote about it.
Heads Rolls At Air Guilin
As outrage spread like a California wildfire on Weibo, Air Guilin acted swiftly;
- The (unnamed) pilot was banned for life from flying
- Xu Xin, the Air Guilin CEO, was issued a “serious warning” + three-month salary cut
- Qu Taoji, General Manager, received a “major warning”+ three-month salary cut + demotion
- Yang Wenzhong, Deputy Maintenance Manager, received a three-month salary cut
- Yin Ruiji, Safety Director, received a three-month salary cut
- Shi Ziqiaoand, General Manager of the Air Security Department, received a three-month salary cut
An Air Guilin spokesperson told the BBC that the pilot had “violated rules by allowing irrelevant personnel into the cockpit”, adding:
Passengers’ safety is always Air Guilin’s priority. We take a zero-tolerance approach against any inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that might risk the aviation safety.
Under Chinese law, passengers are not allowed to enter the cockpit absent special approval or under “necessary” circumstances. This clearly did not fit either exception. No punishments are specified.
Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic, but I hope we one day return to the day when little Joey can visit the flight deck in-flight. I’d personally love to visit the flight deck in-flight…one thing I’ve never done. At the very least, I’m not sure how letting in a friend or loved on for a quick tour or picture when the aircraft is cruising on autopilot is really a safety risk. Thus, I’m not really outraged by this incident.
I know, I know. 9/11. The Germanwings incident. Better safe than sorry, right? I suppose that is the way it has to be in the world in which we live. But I think we should loosen up a bit…
And I know punishing leaders and managers who had nothing directly to do with the incident is the way China does things, but it strikes me as a bit much that a Deputy Maintenance Manager would be punished for the rogue act of a captain.
The punishments were self-imposed by CEO Xu himself, including his own salary cut. #SocialCreditSystem
Earlier today, the Global Times likened this incident to an Aeroflot crash that took place in 1994 when a pilot allowed his children to “take control” of the flight. Seriously? This was just a picture and it isn’t even clear to me that the picture was taken in-flight.
Am I the only one who is outraged far more at the overreaction to this incident than the incident itself?