Panic inside Maldives Bangkok flight: A Kiwi couple were sitting right beside the engine that exploded. As passenger panic on the plane grew, the New Zealand man Jason started kicking the cockpit door demanding that the plane land back at the airport. It did so 15 minutes later. Air Asia points out however that the incident was handled professionally by their staff and at no time were the lives and safety of passengers onboard the flight in peril.
A serious incident with a Thai Air Asia jet bound for Bangkok which caught fire on Thursday night prompted the Maldives Tourism Minister Ali Waheed and other senior tourism officials to rush to the Velana International Airport. The flight was cancelled and Air Asia issued a statement pointing out that passenger safety was never at risk. However, for one New Zealand couple, it was a horrifying experience that they will not so easily forget
Last night at Velana International Airport in the Maldives a Thai Air Asia flight FD178 that had taken off at 8.25 pm landed safely back at the airport just 16 minutes later after apparently circling the airport twice after an engine caught fire and appeared to explode. The incident prompted the Maldives Tourism Minister, Ali Waheed to dash to the airport to assure passengers and the public that the situation was under control.
The plane bound for Bangkok had 58 passengers on board and 7 crew members.
Online footage on the Air Asia jet on fire
The incident has received growing media attention as clips of the engine fire appeared online taken from locals in Malè who saw the jet take off. The fire in the engine was visible to the naked eye even as the modern Airbus Airbus A320-200 plane with the registration call sign HS-BBT still appeared to be ascending into the sky.
Airline put all passengers up in a hotel overnight and flew them on Friday to Bangkok on another flight
Passengers from the flight were accommodated overnight at a hotel near the airport and are due to arrive in Bangkok on a flight from the Maldives at 17.10 on Friday. Following the incident and queries from the media and worried relatives who had heard about the scare, Air Asia made a statement. An excerpt read: ‘The pilots then requested a priority landing at Malè’s Velana International Airport where Flight FD178 landed safely at 8.41pm local time. The aircraft is now undergoing an engineering assessment in Malé’
Air Asia: Crew on the flight well-trained to handle such situations, accepted that loud bang may have frightened passengers
The airline in its statement assured the passengers and the public that the airline’s staff and crew were well trained to handle incidents exactly like this. It accepted that passengers may have been frightened by a loud bang on the plane but pointed out that at no time was the plane or its passengers in danger.
New Zealand couple sitting next to the engine fire
However, for the New Zealand couple onboard the plane, it was a harrowing and shocking incident. The couple who do not want to be named said that they were sitting on the right-hand side of the plane in direct view of the engine that caught fire.
Felt uneasy as the jet’s engines prepared for takeoff
The New Zealand woman said that they both felt uneasy even as the jet prepared for take-off because the engines did not sound right. They said that as the plane was ascending, there was what they termed a ‘loud explosion’ and they observed flames coming from the engine.
Kiwi woman press assistance button
The woman said she started to press the assistance button summoning the airline crew to tell them what she had seen. She started to shout out that the engine was on fire. As the couple got no response, they left their seats and headed towards the back of the plane to communicate with airline staff there. They were told to sit down but no one came to inspect the engine which was now billowing smoke.
The couple’s anxiety then escalated as there was no communication from the cockpit or from the flight attendants as to what was happening. Then there was a second explosion.
Announcement that the engine had been switched off
This was followed by an announcement that the engine had been switched off and that the plane could fly on one engine. The New Zealand couple say that they were joined at this point by other passengers in demanding that the plane turn back and land. She said that her husband whose name is Jason ran to the Captain’s area and started to kick at the cockpit door demanding that the plane descend. ‘We continued to scream along with other terrified passengers that we needed to land but the plane continued ascending. They were not communicating with any of us so Jason ran to the front of the plane and started kicking the cockpit door screaming for them to do something,’ she said.
Captain said the plane was heading back to Malè
This was followed by an announcement from the captain that the plane was indeed turning back to Velena International Airport in Malè. ‘Finally, the plane started to turn and they announced that it would take 15 minutes to get back to Malè,’ she said.
New Zealand woman critical of Air Asia
The woman from New Zealand was highly critical of the response from Air Asia during the scare and even at the airport, she complained that the passengers were not briefed. She explained that the passengers were not initially allowed to disembark from the aircraft while an inspection appeared to be carried out. ‘We feel the situation was handled extremely badly. We were terrified and thought we were going to die,’ she said.
The Kiwi woman late on Thursday night said she could still not get the experience and the image of the flaming engine out of her head.