The behavior of the 27-year-old co-pilot of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has been questioned as it has emerged that he had once invited teenage girls inside the cockpit and smoked during the flight.
The incident took place in 2011 in an international flight.
Jonti Roos, one of the South African tourists who were invited inside the cockpit, told Australia's Channel 9 that the pilots were smoking and were also posing for photos. The teenage girls stayed inside the cockpit for the entire duration of the flight.
Both smoking and passengers visiting the cockpit are strictly prohibited in most of the airlines, including Malaysia Airlines.
Roos, who first told her story to Channel 9's A Current Affair program, also told CNN that she is Facebook friends with Fariq Ab Hamid, the first officer on Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
The airline officials said they were 'shocked' to see pictures of the first officer posing with the tourists and by Roos' claim that he smoked on the flight deck and also allowed them to stay inside the cockpit during take-off and landing, against the rules of the airline.
"We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident" read a statement from the airlines. "As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want our attention to be diverted."
Four days after the Boeing 777 disappeared on its journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people onboard, the area for search and rescue has been extended. While curiosity has grown, as has frustration and anger, with the pace at which the story is developing. Rescue efforts from 10 different countries have not been able to spot the wreckage of the airplane.
While the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of the airline has sparked frenzy throughout the world, the news that the behavior of the co-pilot is likely to raise further rage and fury among people.
Roos told CNN and Australian Channel 9 that she and a friend were waiting for a flight in 2011, when Hamid and another pilot asked them if they wanted to come and sit inside the cockpit during the flight.
Roos said she and her friend agreed but initially went to their assigned seats when they boarded. Later they were escorted to the cockpit area and they were there for the rest of the flight.
"Throughout the whole flight they were talking to us," Roos said in the interview. "They were actually smoking, which I don't think they are allowed to be doing. And they were taking photos of us in the cockpit while they were flying. I was just completely shocked I couldn't believe it."
A Current Affair showed images of the young women inside the cockpit, seemingly having fun with the Malaysia Airlines pilots.
"I know for the whole time they weren't facing the front of the plane and actually flying," she said. "Possibly a little bit sleazy - they asked us if we couldn't arrange our trip to stay in Kuala Lumpur for a few nights so they could take us out.
"When I realized it was the exact same co-pilot (as missing flight MH370)... that was quite shocking," she added.
(Edited by Vishnuprasad S Pillai)