Iraqi Airways has suspended two of its pilots for physically fighting each other during an international flight with 157 passengers on board.

The aircraft, which left from Mashhad on Wednesday and was headed for Baghdad, was cruising at 37,000 ft when the two men started fighting one another in the pilots’ cockpit over a food tray.

In a letter addressed to Iraqi Airways management, the co-pilot said: “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.”

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 plane touched down safely in Baghdad, despite the fight, but it’s reported the pair continued to 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 confirmed earlier this week that both men were now under investigation. “The transport ministry has opened an investigation with the two pilots who argued with each other in-flight,” the company said.

The pilots have been warned they “will not escape the toughest sanctions… such as a lifetime flying ban”.

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