An Air Guilin captain has been suspended for life from flying after he invited a young woman into the airplane’s cockpit during a flight, Global Times reported.

A photo of the woman sitting in the cockpit of the airplane with her fingers making a V-shaped sign and cups of drinks on her knees has been circulating on Sina Weibo since Sunday.

According to a statement from Air Guilin on Monday, the incident took place on January 4 on flight GT1011 from Guilin, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to Yangzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province.

Chinese pilots and analysts said the photo appears to have been taken during the flight, the Global Times report said.

The social media post of the photo also includes a comment attributed to the woman, who said she was “so happy.” According to media reports, the woman, wearing civilian clothes in the photo, is in a relationship with the pilot.

The captain violated regulations of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) by allowing an unauthorized person into the cockpit, the statement said.

The other crew members who were involved in the incident have been suspended indefinitely and will undergo further investigation by the company, the airline’s statement said.

The woman, wearing civilian clothes in the photo, is in a relationship with the Guilin Airlines pilot. Credit: Handout.

Chinese netizens criticized the captain and Air Guilin on social media, saying that the captain was irresponsible and risked passengers’ lives. They also called for harsher punishment and stricter supervision of pilots and airline crew members, the Global Times report said.

The woman should also be punished with five days in detention and a fine of 2,000 yuan (US$284), Zhang Qihuai, deputy head of the Chinese Aviation Law Association, told the Global Times.

Zhang agreed with netizens that the captain had put passengers in danger, and should be regarded as a crime.

Zhang said that flying is not trivial and the safety of the passengers and crew are of utmost importance. “Aviation safety comes first. No one can be careless, let alone break the law,” Zhang stressed.

Air Guilin promised to strictly observe CAAC regulations to avoid similar incidents.

On March 23, 1994, a relief pilot of Russia’s Aeroflot Flight 593 brought his 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-son into the cockpit while on duty. The plane crashed into a mountain range in Russia, killing all 75 passengers and crew members on board.

No evidence of a technical malfunction was found, according to related reports, and analysts believe the children accidentally interfered with the doomed flight.