But there have been accusations of pilots smoking on board other Chinese flights, including in 2015 when the state-run radio spoke to passengers on a Hong Kong-Beijing flight who claimed to smell strong smoke coming from the cockpit.
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'Smoke diffused into the passenger cabin and relevant air conditioning components were wrongly shut off, without notifying the captain, which resulted in insufficient oxygen, ' it added.
The crew returned to normal cruising altitude once it was discovered that the air conditioning was, in fact, turned off.
The incident, confirmed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) at a press conference, is now being investigated.
The CAAC said it was continuing the investigation and was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. The statement said: "If the investigation reveals that the crew has violated regulations, the company will seriously deal with the responsible person with zero tolerance".
"[We] didn't know what was going on, nor did the flight attendants, it seemed", said Hoby Sun, a passenger on flight CA106.
An Air China staff member has been accused of putting a flight in danger after taking a puff of his vape while flying the aircraft.