The captain of a long-haul flight between New York and Rome was sacked after accusations that he fell asleep and was unavailable while flying over France on May 1.
ITA Airways confirmed on Tuesday that the pilot, who denied the incident, was dismissed, but stressed that passengers were not in danger at any time.
The air-traffic control in Marseille was unable to contact the Airbus A330 in the early morning. This happens in the worst case scenario when a plane is hijacked, for example by terrorists.
Reports said that two fighter jets were dispatched. After a few minutes, however, the pilots on board the ITA aircraft reported in and continued the journey to Rome without any problems.
The captain stated that the radio connection was interrupted due to a technical issue, but according to ITA, this was refuted by an examination of the aircraft.
Pilots can generally take a sleep break on long-haul flights, if it is ensured that another pilot is awake and reachable.
The airline dismissed the pilot because of his behaviour on board and because it felt that the relationship of trust had been irreparably damaged.
There are no known disciplinary proceedings against the second pilot, who, according to the report, had informed about his sleep break in accordance with the rules.