China’s aviation regulator is investigating a reported fistfight between the captain and chief steward onboard a domestic passenger flight last month.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said it took the reported incident extremely seriously and was collecting further information. Any incident endangering flight safety would be “dealt with strictly under the law”, said a statement issued late on Monday.
Chinese media reports said the in-air brawl occurred on a Donghai Airlines flight on 20 February. The captain became angry after emerging from the bathroom to find a first-class passenger waiting outside, and accused the steward of not fulfilling his duties by requiring the passenger to wait in their seat.
The two exchanged blows, leaving the steward with a broken hand and the captain a chipped tooth, according to reports.
The flight was about 50 minutes from its destination at the central city of Xi’an after departing from the coastal city of Nantong, near Shanghai.
In a statement, Donghai Airlines apologised and said it was reviewing safety protocols. It said those involved in the incident had been suspended from duty, but did not say if they were still employed by the company and gave no details about the altercation.
China’s fast-growing aviation sector has a strong safety record, although there have been previous incidents of passengers opening emergency exits while waiting for takeoff, brawling with staff onboard or at the gate and even tossing coins into the jet engine inlet, allegedly for good luck.