Photos of cabin crew members lying in an aircraft’s overhead luggage compartments have gone viral, sparking public outrage. The images were uploaded Sunday to a social media account called Civil Aviation Tabloid on WeChat. The controversial photos included a post explaining the cabin crew for Kunming Airlines, headquartered in Yunnan province in southwestern China, was “forced into lockers by security staff upon completing 30 to 50 hours of service" as part of an "industry ritual,” BBC reported Tuesday. 

Many members of the bullied Kunming Airlines cabin crew were annoyed by the ritual, yet they still went through with it, fearing they would be edged out by colleagues, CCTV News reported. While numerous flight attendants have consistently filed complaints about the company, the complaints were ignored, and the ritual went on for nearly five years. 

"No newbie has been exempted, except for a few who are taciturn. But they were often stigmatized as 'uncooperative' and 'cocky,' " said the post accompanying the photos on WeChat, the Straits Times reported.

The ritual of stuffing cabin crew members into overhead bins was reported to be a popular trend at airline companies overseas. However, after the photos went viral, many people online argued participant consent is necessary before rituals can be carried out, otherwise it could be offensive. 

Kunming Airlines issued a statement Monday declaring it would stop the behavior. The ritual was reportedly carried out without the executive level’s knowledge and the airline had not received any complaints from the staff, the statement claimed. Kunming Airlines  added that flight safety was never compromised as a result of the ritual.

"Such conduct is the personal behavior of certain cabin crew and security staff, which the airline has no knowledge of and never encourages," Kunming Airlines said in a statement, the Straits Times reported.