Iraqi Airways pilots trade fisticuffs mid-flight over food tray
Two Iraqi Airways pilots who hurled fists at each other mid-flight - over a food tray - were suspended on Thursday after an investigation.
The row erupted on Monday on a flight to the capital Baghdad from the Iranian city of Mashhad, with 157 travellers on board plus crew.
Security guards broke up the brawl, which, according to passengers, caused damage to the cockpit.
"Conversation with the pilot became heated because he forbade an air hostess from bringing me a meal tray, under the pretext that I hadn't asked him for authorisation," the co-pilot said in a letter addressed to Iraqi Airways management.
After the pilot had taken his own meal, he "hit and insulted (the co-pilot), prompting the arrival of a security agent," according to the letter.
The duo went on to land the plane safely in Baghdad, only to continue their quarrel after landing.
"The pilot again hit and insulted" his colleague, the co-pilot said, admitting that he also lashed out: "I had to defend myself".
Iraqi Airways said late Wednesday that it opened an investigation into the kerfuffle.
Both have since been suspended, the airline said Thursday, warning that the two employees "will not escape the toughest sanctions... such as a lifetime flying ban".
Iraq's Ministry of Transportation committee said that Captain Ali Ahmed Yaqub will retire and Captain Ali Ahmed Salih will be dismissed.
Iraqis responded with horror and mockery to the incident on social media, with one person likening the duo to the country's minibus drivers who are renowned for racing around at full throttle.
Iraqi Airways has been barred from flying over any EU airspace since 2015 due to non-compliance with public safety regulations.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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