Airline apologizes after pilot's chat about crashing plane

BANGKOK (AP) — A domestic airline in Thailand has apologized after three friends of a pilot joked in a group chat about crashing the plane he was going to fly with former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on board.

The screenshot of the chat, conducted on their phones Sunday, somehow was leaked on social media, provoking widespread criticism of the airline, Nok Air. In response, Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin said in a tweet that "this kind of behavior is intolerable."

"I will personally call Yingluck and apologize, Nok Air has no politics, I won't stand this," he said.

Yingluck came to power in a landslide election victory in 2011, but her government was ousted in a coup in 2014 after protracted political turmoil in Thailand. She remains popular in the countryside but many people in cities remain opposed to her family, especially her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who also was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He now lives abroad in self-imposed exile.

On Sunday, Yingluck was walking on the tarmac toward the Nok Air aircraft in the provincial town of Phrae when the first officer on the plane took her picture. He posted it on a group chat with the comment: "There's a prey on board."

A friend commented: "Oooh, go for it." A second friend then said: "please do a CFIT" and a third person chimed in by saying: "Very Very Important Person, land safely."

CFIT is aviation jargon meaning "controlled flight into terrain," or a controlled crash.

It was not known if the first officer's friends were also pilots or in aviation. The acronym CFIT, however, is normally used by those in the business.

On her Facebook page Monday, Yingluck said she hoped this incident would be an example of "not bringing in personal attitudes into professional services. Especially when it is about life and safety."

Nok Air also posted an apology on the company's Facebook page, which attracted hundreds of comments.