Passengers on a flight to Ethiopia had a lucky escape when the plane landed safely despite two pilots falling asleep ahead of the descent, say reports.

Flight ET343 was en route from Khartoum in Sudan to Addis Ababa at 37,000 feet when the shocking incident occurred on August 15.

The pilots reportedly fell asleep before they were supposed to make their descent to Addis Ababa Bole Airport and were only awoke when the autopilot disconnected and sounded an alarm after air traffic control had been unsuccessful in attempts to contact the cockpit.

The flight then landed safely, despite having overflown the runway and having to make another approach.

Ethiopia flight overflew runway after both pilots 'fell asleep' before descent

The Ethiopian Airlines flight eventually landed safely at Bole International (stock image) ( Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Daily Mail reported that data confirmed the incident, showing the aircraft was past the runway and made a second approach once the pilots were awake.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras wrote on Twitter : “Deeply concerning incident at Africa's largest airline — Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 #ET343 was still at cruising altitude of 37,000ft by the time it reached destination Addis Ababa.

“Why hadn't it started to descend for landing? Both pilots were asleep.

“Air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilots numerous times without success

“After overflying the runway (still at cruising altitude), the autopilot disconnected – and this chime alert woke the pilots up — who then initiated a descent and eventually made a safe landing.

“Pilot fatigue is nothing new, and continues to pose one of the most significant threats to air safety – internationally.

“Just last week, pilots publicly criticised UK leisure airline Jet2 for 'refusing to recognise concerns about pilot fatigue'.”

Ethiopia flight overflew runway after both pilots 'fell asleep' before descent

The plane overflew the runway in Addis Ababa before making a second descent (stock image) ( Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Internet users on social media were shocked by the incident, with one calling it “unprofessional and dangerous”, although other Twitter users questioned whether airlines were allowing pilots adequate time to rest.

Another person in the replies claimed that the problem was more common than people think, writing: “Ex controller here, trust me when I tell you its happened here as well.”

ABC 7 Eyewitness News reported a separate incident in April where two other pilots allegedly dozed off during a flight from New York to Rome.

An investigation into the ITA Airways flight found that both pilots had fallen asleep during the journey while flying over France.

One of the pilots had been on his break but the captain, who wasn't, had also fallen asleep at the same time.

In that incident, air traffic control lost contact with the plane for around 10 minutes, prompting them to prepare fighter jets to intercept the plane in case the issue was down to a terrorist incident.

The pilots eventually responded and the captain was sacked following an investigation.

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