On Sunday (25th June 2017), AirAsia X’s flight D7237 bound for Kuala Lumpur from Perth was forced to turn back after the Airbus A300 encountered technical difficulties that caused the aircraft to shake “like a washing machine”. The low-cost carrier flight landed safely at 10am and all passengers were transferred to the next available flight or to the recovery flight at 11:40pm on the same day.
Passengers on board the plane uploaded videos of the 2-hour flight back to the Perth Airport, and in a matter of hours, the clips went viral.
Several news outlets quoted a passenger as saying that the pilot, Captain Ibrahim, had asked them to “pray”, twice, which brought on criticism from experts and netizens. “Sounds like the Captain should attend a course in how to calm passengers. Prompting them to pray is obviously not the best idea!” wrote an Airbus Fan on AvHerald.com.
In defense of the pilots and the cabin crew, 15-year-old Madeline Wright, who was on the flight, took to her Facebook profile to write a first person account of the incident, explaining, “After hearing the loud bang, our aircraft began to shake vigorously and panic fell across all 359 passengers. 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 crew aboard to help us and for our captain to fly us to safety.”
“The fact that we and other passengers paid less for a flight is not the reason for this planes accident. A technical problem like this could happen on any plane and Air Asia’s cheaper flights are not to blame. 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 Air Asia for missing anything – technical problems happen all the time, even on more expensive flights. We didn’t pay less for a technical problem, we paid less for no electronic devices, no meals and less leg room. Air Asia is an amazing company and I have flown with them many times before, always with great service and perfect take off and landing,” she wrote.
Madeline also slammed the criticism and comments that Captain Ibrahim was getting over the way the incident was handled. “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.’ His ask for prayer was said in such way that it was only to make us feel better and if it helped that was an individual thing. 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 said.
Madeline’s Facebook post has since been shared over 14,700 times, garnering over 43,000 reactions.
Meanwhile, AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has lauded the D7237 crew for doing “a superb heroic job bringing back everyone safely”. “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. From videos you can see all guests calm, and from the many e-mails and Whatsapps I got, the Captains announcements kept everyone calm. 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,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
AirAsia X has also released an official statement regarding flight D7237, confirming that it is currently conducting an investigation into the cause of the incident together with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, as well as cooperating fully with the local aviation authorities.
[Press release] AirAsia X statement on flight D7 237 pic.twitter.com/vEBFudsZPjADVERTISEMENT
— AirAsia (@AirAsia) June 26, 2017