Former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s sparked the debate on the AirAsia pilot’s call for prayer during the troubled Perth-KL flight.
Reacting to his disapproval, most people, including the airline’s chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun defended the pilot’s action.
Yesterday, AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes took to Facebook to praise the pilots and crew of the flight for bringing all 359 people on board to safety.
“Super proud of all my crew led by Captain Ibrahim. And first officer Vincent and Purser Ruijaruuneglai who did a superb heroic job bringing back everyone safely,” he said.
“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,” Fernandes said.
“I want to thank the many Australians who have praised AirAsia for all we have done despite all the adverse press,” he added.
Zaid had chided the AirAsia pilot, saying in a tweet, “”Good lord, I much prefer pilot don’t tell me death is imminent.”
Media reports said that passengers were asked to stay calm and told to practise the brace position for an emergency landing.
Negative press reports in foreign media cited passengers saying they will never fly the airline again. Others complained about the lack of support they received from the airline after it returned to Perth and over the issue of connecting flights, among other things.
An Iranian passenger, Rasool Zareie, who was travelling with his family en route to Teheran, told Australian media, “In this kind of situation you need counselling. My daughter was so scared. We went through a difficult situation, it was so intense.”
However, as far as the flight itself was concerned, Fernandes spoke of the positive feedback he had received.
“From videos you can see all guests calm, and from the many emails and WhatsApp I got, the captain’s announcements kept everyone calm.
From the horse’s mouth, so to speak
It’s understandable that the airline stands by its employees and opinions differ on the pilot’s call for prayer, but what’s best is a first person account of what actually happened onboard AirAsia flight D7237.
Madeline Wright, 15, was travelling with her family to Vietnam for a holiday. Her Facebook post on the flight has garnered 45,000 likes and 15,703 shares so far.
She told The Star that she felt a need to voice her story as many people were telling the passengers to never fly with the “dodgy” airline and were also accusing the captain of wrongdoing.
“This was wrong of them and I wanted to speak out about this problem…at least give people a personal perspective,” she said.
She admitted that she was feared for her life when the plane started shaking but calmed down when the pilot addressed the passengers about the technical issues they were facing.
“Once passengers were aware of what was happening, everyone was fairly calm and from thereafter the only thoughts we had was how we were going to land,” she said, adding that the captain “made an amazing landing and everyone survived”.
Wright’s father, 45-year-old Andy Wright, described the flight as an “unfortunate incident quickly controlled by a competent pilot who showed professional detachment and human concern”.
The forester said the passengers showed solidarity and shared joy with each other upon landing without seeking to lay blame, but the broader public who were not present has used the incident to voice “bigoted views”.