It’s not that I want to defend Singapore Airlines, but I thought some of the passengers on the A380 flight SQ 317 that made an emergency landing at Azerbaijan were unbelievably unappreciative of the situation that they were in. The A380 encountered an emergency situation, and the pilot had to divert to the nearest airport. It was an unplanned stop. The airline has no operations there.
Yet, some passengers were being quoted as complaining about the most inane things. For example, passenger Terri Mann said she had to sleep on a “cold steel bench” with her 17-month old child, and that there were no “food places” at the airport. Hey, the plane landed at 1:03 am local time at Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Did they really expect the airport eateries to be open on 24 hr basis? (Of course, many large airports do have some sort of eateries open round the clock, even though there might not be scheduled flights. But you don’t assume this.)
How about another passenger, Mark Franklin, who was quoted “It’s not acceptable to not have even very basic refreshment or information for almost 500 people.”
Of course, you could complain if your fine-dining at a three Michelin star restaurant failed your expectations. But here, we are talking about an emergency mid flight.
Other passengers complained about being held in the airport for 14 hours. That was because they did not have the necessary visas to enter the country. It would take a little while to arrange these administrative matters.
Worse, the complaints about the long wait for a replacement plane. Hey, you are not like the President of the United States who, when he travels on Air Force One, has a backup plane tagging along. Did they expect Singapore Airlines to have a standby plane on-hand anywhere in the world? No! It takes time to prepare a plane, and to fly to where they are.
Passengers were worried about the sudden and rapid descent of the aircraft. Well, thanks to having watched enough of Air Crash Investigations, I know it is a planned response in the event of a cabin depressurisation. The normal flying altitude is high up enough that the air is too thin. For safety and comfort (and safety, most importantly), it is necessary to descend to a safe altitude where there is enough oxygen in the air for humans to breathe on their own.
It’s alright that passengers didn’t know about the descend response to cabin depressurisation. But I’m just shocked that passengers would gripe about the lack of refreshments, the wait for replacement aircraft, etc. There was an emergency in the air. Did they prefer that the pilots just carried on their flight, or perhaps choose another airport where there were better amenities?
Perhaps SQ 317’s mid-flight cabin depressurisation was so calm that passengers didn’t quite feel they were experiencing an emergency, or not one that would lead to a life-threatening situation. I don’t know. But you shouldn’t always assume that things could not become worse, or that it isn’t worse than it appears to be.
The case of Qantas flight QF 32 which suffered an uncontained engine failure is an example of a situation where, although things appeared mostly calm and under-control to the passengers, in reality was very critical. Many aircraft systems were damaged. Apart from the loss of engine number 2 (which suffered the uncontained failure), engines number 1 and 4 were left in degraded mode. The aircraft landed with just 100 m of runway left, and the pilots were unable to shut down engine number 1.
I feel the passengers of this SQ 317 flight should have been a whole lot more appreciative that their flight landed without further incident.