"He's The Reason I Am Still Alive" - AirAsia Passenger Defends Pilot Who Called For Prayer
AirAsia X flight D7237 en route to Kuala Lumpur was forced to return to Perth, Australia shortly after take-off due to a technical issue on Sunday, 25 June
The A330 airbus, carrying 359 passengers, left at 7am (local time) but the plane started shuddering just 1.5 hours into the trip as passengers reportedly heard a small explosion on the left wing.
A passenger named Brenton Atkinson had described the shaking like a "sitting on top of a washing machine".
"It was literally like you were sitting on top of a washing machine. The whole thing was going. We could see the engine out the window which was really shaken on the wing," he told ABC.
"No-one was freaking out too much. It was a bit nervy. [The crew] handled it really well," Atkinson added.
The flight landed safely at Perth Airport at 10am and no passengers or crew members were injured, much to everyone's relief.
Nevertheless, criticisms began to arise when reports of the pilot asking passengers to pray surfaced on the Internet.
According to passenger Sophie Nicolas, the pilot reportedly said, "[Crew] said 'I hope you all say a prayer, I'll be saying a prayer too, and let's hope that we all get back home safely'."
Another passenger Damien Stevens told CNN that the pilot had asked passenger to pray twice.
Meanwhile, the captain can be heard in one of the viral video recordings saying, "Please listen to everything. Our survival depends on your cooperating. Hopefully, everything will turn out for the best."
Quite a number of people opined that the pilot was "not professional" for asking for divine assistance, arguing that such message could greatly influence passengers’ emotional state and cause panic.
However, one of the passengers on Flight D7237 has urged netizens to stop criticising the pilot and the low-cost carrier
15-year-old Madeline Wright said that she was on the plane when the incident unfolded mid-air and noted that all the crew members, including the pilot, did their best during the crisis.
"Our reassuring captain talked us through the whole situation and gave us every piece of information he had."
"The way we all cooperated and remained calm throughout the event made it easier for the crew onboard to help us and for our captain to fly us to safety. No one screamed," she wrote in a post on Facebook.
"It disgusts me that people are criticising our captain for telling us to pray and are trying to get him fired."
"The full context was, 'Everything is under control in the cockpit. If you want to say a prayer, that might help too'," she explained, adding that the pilot's call for prayer was said in a way to make people feel better.
"He was professional. He was human. He was a reassuring voice during this event and gave us hope, he is the reason I am still alive and I cannot thank him enough."
She went on to say that unexpected technical difficulties could happen to any airline, and not just low-cost carriers like AirAsia
"The aircraft was checked thoroughly before departure like all planes are and was regulated by the same air safety organisations. People should not be criticising AirAsia for missing anything - technical problems happen all the time, even on more expensive flights."
"And to the people blaming AirAsia for the event, it was not their fault and they did their best to keep us comfortable during the incident and the aftermath."
Acknowledging the media reports on how passengers were stranded in the airport following the incident, Wright said that AirAsia did their best to accommodate passengers during that period of time and even offered several options for compensation.
"For those of you criticising AirAsia, our pilot and those on board, please stop. The bravery of our crew and captain should be praised not criticised, they did the best they could for us, and everyone is safe," she wrote.
Wright's post has been shared over 14,500 times at the time of writing, with many netizens expressing their support and praise for the pilot.
Meanwhile, AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said that he is "super proud of all his crew led by Captain Ibrahim"
He also commended first officer Vincent and Purser Ruijaruuneglai "who did a superb heroic job bringing back everyone safely".
According to Tony, passengers have reached out to him, telling him that Captain Ibrahim's announcements kept everyone calm.
"AirAsia don't make engines and all airlines have engine failures. But when it does happen it takes great pilots and great leadership in times of crisis. I'm beaming with pride."
"If it was a full-service airline the pilot would have been a hero. But because it's a low-cost carrier press and so called experts make wild accusations and forget the heroics of our crew," Tony wrote on his Facebook page yesterday, 27 June.