Air China Pilot Suspended for Broadcasting Videos of His Duties on Social Media

An Air China co-pilot going by ‘Andy’ attracted a social media following of 72,000 on Weibo under the username 90000xiaobao posting videos of himself performing his duties. His posts went viral and he’s been suspended.

One criticism of the pilot? Use of prohibited electronic devices inflight.

“Why are passengers told to turn off their digital devices on flights, but pilots can just ignore this rule?”

Chinese civil aviation regulations forbid the use of mobile phones inflight – even in airplane mode – but they do not forbid the use of tablets. (I’ve seen it speculated that the reason for this unique ban is ‘low quality’ knockoff phones which may not receive the testing of major brands.)

I don’t think it would be advisable for airlines to allow pilots to broadcast inflight, or on duty — or even to frame photos for posting later. A major and popular social media endeavor takes planning, takes and retakes, and isn’t just the random photo snap for personal use that happens to get shared publicly. Social media while on duty is a distraction, and risks dereliction of duty. If pilots are in a key safety role (Korean Air’s Chairman would disagree but no pilot wants to feed that narrative) then it’s reasonable to hold them to this standard.

One reason for the pilot’s suspension struck me interesting (emphasis mine):

Air China released a statement this morning, confirming the man was its newly employed co-pilot. The company said he had been seriously punished for failing to fully focus on preparation for takeoff.

It said the man had been suspended from service because the massive online criticism may impact his emotions and resulted in security risks for flights.

If the standard, though, is that any pilot being criticized online cannot perform their duties then airlines would have to be monitoring all pilot online activities. There are some trolls in the comment section of this blog, for instance, who are commercial pilots.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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