Indian airline grounds two pilots for having beverage and sweets inside cockpit

India’s private air carrier SpiceJet has grounded two of its pilots for allegedly having beverages and sweets inside the cockpit during a flight.

The incident came to light after a purported photo of sweets and a cup of beverage placed inside the cockpit’s centre console went viral, sparking concerns that a possible spillage could have affected the safety of those onboard the passenger plane.

The picture going viral on social media showed a cup with SpiceJet’s logo half filled with what looked like coffee, alongside gujiyas, a crescent-shaped dessert popularly made around the Holi festival.

India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, has sought details from the air carrier, asking to identify crew members and take appropriate action.

A SpiceJet spokesperson said the two pilots have been grounded pending an inquiry.

“SpiceJet has a strict policy for consumption of food inside the cockpit which is adhered to by all flight crew. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon completion of the investigation,” the statement added.

The picture was taken when the SpiceJet aircraft was cruising at 37,000ft, Times of India reported.

The incident reportedly occurred on a flight from Delhi to Guwahati city on 8 March, the day of the Hindu festival of Holi.

The picture has sparked anger on social media with aviation experts and people expressing anguish over the pilot’s dangerous behaviour that could have affected the safety of passengers.

“This is a positively dangerous act and shows a total lack of safety consciousness of the pilots. DGCA has been a safety blanket for this airline since 2014. Let us see if they crack the whip,” an aviation safety consultant Mohan Ranganathan said in a tweet sharing the picture.

Another Twitter user said: “The carelessness displayed by the pilots is deeply concerning. Just imagine the potential consequences if turbulence had occurred during the flight.”

A pilot with the pseudonym Bandit said it was extremely “appalling and unprofessional behaviour by SpiceJet pilots.

“If the liquid (resting on the fuel cutoff levers) spills, it can short circuit the electronics affecting a range of systems and compromise the aircraft’s ability to fly safely,” the tweet added.

Spicejet came under scanner last year in November after an Indian man who was injured during turbulence onboard a flight in May 2022 died of his injuries.

Akbar Ansari, 48, was on ventilator support for more than a month before passing away on 26 September, according to a statement issued by SpiceJet.

The airlines suffered at least 8 instances of technical glitches last year, causing alarm among flyers and raising scrutiny from federal aviation regulators.

The airline was put under enhanced DGCA supervision after its string of operational and financial headwinds in recent times. The regulator last month allowed the airline to resume operating at full capacity until March 2023.