Hong Kong (CNN) — A Chinese pilot has been grounded after a photo of a woman sitting in an airplane cockpit emerged on social media, sparking outrage over a breach of safety rules.
The photo, posted by the woman on the Twitter-like Weibo social network, showed her taking the pilot’s seat and making a V-sign while wearing civilian clothes.
“[I am] super thankful to the pilot! I am really so excited,” the caption read.
The photo went viral by the time it had been taken down. The aviation blogger’s post about the image currently has 22,000 likes.
Air Guilin confirmed that the incident took place during a flight from the southern city of Guilin to Yangzhou, eastern China on January 4.
The carrier said it had always placed the safety of its passengers as its top priority, and reiterated it had a “zero tolerance policy towards any unprofessional and improper acts that could endanger air safety.”
“We will enhance our rigorous safety guidelines, to avoid incidents like this from happening again,” the statement said.
A company representative told state media outlet Beijing Youth Daily that every carrier has its own rules and, if the pilot decides to apply for jobs with other airlines, it’d be up to other carriers to decide whether or not to hire him.
Meanwhile, the photo sparked outrage on Chinese social media.
“This is putting passengers’ lives in the entire aircraft at risk,” one user commented. Another asked: “How can an aviation professional not understand the basics of air safety?”
The woman was identified as a student taking a flight attendant course at the Guilin Tourism University, according to the state-run People’s Daily. It is unclear whether she is personally connected to the pilot.
This is not the first time that pilots have violated air safety rules in China by inviting guests into the cockpit mid-flight.
Regulations issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also ban pilots from using smartphones for personal use – including taking pictures – when the plane is in the air, unless they have gotten permission in advance.