Pilot Tells Passengers to Pray as Plane Shakes ‘Likes a Washing Machine’ and Returns to Australia

Air Asia X flight 237 from Perth, Australia to Kuala Lumpur took off shortly after its scheduled 6:50 a.m. departure time, made it out over the coast of Western Australia, and had to turn back around.

With 359 passengers onboard the Airbus A330, there was a ‘big bang’ about an hour into the flight and the plane began to ‘violently shake’. A passenger described the shaking as “like a ‘washing machine’.”

The captain announced “there appeared to have been an engine seizure on the left side of the aircraft.” And he further announced that everyone’s survival depends on cooperation and also that they should pray.

Passengers reported that several were trying to use their cell phones to call loved ones.

North of Perth emergency services was on standby prepared for the possibility of a water landing. Passengers “were ordered into brace position” but the plane landed safely back at the airport and “everybody burst into applause.”

Air Asia says “there’s no indication it was an engine issue.” Passengers were provided with AU$20 vouchers “and forced to queue for hours” for alternate travel arrangements.

Two years ago the occurrence aircraft had an indication of fire in the right engine on descent into Taipei. On landing at Taoyuan International Airport’s runway 05R the aircraft was examined by emergency services and neither fire nor smoke was found.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You seem to be startled or bothered by the apparent suggestion by the pilot that passengers should pray, as it’s been italicized in your post.

    While I may not share any individual’s religious conviction, I do respect everyone’s right to worship and practice their religion, in so far as it does not overtly hurt others. People have varying degrees of spirituality, of which I am tolerant.

    In this case, the pilot’s suggestion reflected his deep concern over the trouble with the aircraft, and hurt no one. What’s the big deal?

    Perhaps his assessment of the etiology of the problem was incorrect, but that is a separate issue.

  2. @Ron

    Because not only is it 100% ineffective it’s also extremely unprofessional for a pilot to ask his passengers to pray. If I were on that flight I would have wanted to pilot to calmly explain the situation and say he’s trying to get us all back safely, not begging us to pray.

  3. @Ron: First of all, it is Air Asia, after all. Air Asia has a well-deserved reputation throughout parts of Asia as being a turd.

    I would also be startled if a pilot told passengers they should pray. To me, that means it’s time to panic and causing panic on an aircraft is seldom helpful. Survival is at stake and you all should pray pretty much says we are doomed. And they clearly weren’t.

    The pilot was a drama queen. But then it was Air Asia.

  4. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but I knew some prople would complain of any mention of God or anything related.

  5. Jesus was a homosexual. He is always surrounded by guys. Why then are Christans against gays? Is that the original guilt?

  6. @Ron = troll

    They should refund every passenger’s fare for having to listen to that …

  7. in case you did not know. its a religious holiday in the muslim world. hair raya or eid is important to them hence the please pray

  8. OK, the prayer issue needn’t get nasty and political. People have a right to pray – or not – depending on their beliefs. But the fact is, if I had that captain on my flight telling me to ‘pray’, that would freak me out. No better way to say “please panic” on an airplane than to tell your passengers to “pray”. It’s unprofessional and instills an incredible lack of confidence in the passengers. At the time of an incident or problem on your flight, you want a crew that is cool, calm and collected; not a clown who tells you to pray for your life.

    Lastly, do you mean to tell me that they checked the plane and found nothing wrong with the engine? So, what caused this? Are they serious? Because if they find nothing, then nothing ends up being done to remedy the situation that caused the incident. And a $20 (AUS) voucher? Seriously? After this story, I would never fly such an airline. Not ever.

  9. @PrayerFixesEVERYthing

    Well, I’m sorry if you feel as if I am a troll. I see no rational basis for that assertion … but I guess you don’t need one.

    I find it ironic that so many who preach tolerance, and who so often view opposing or alternate opinions as hate speech, are actually some of the most intolerant among us.

  10. Re “Credit’s” commentioned regarding how many men were around Jesus, it would seem that He knew a woman”s place was elsewhere, unlike contemporary times.

  11. What the pilot needed was for the passengers and crew to remain in place and as calm as possible. I admire the honesty of the pilot, and his calm choice to inform everyone of the gravity of the situation in a way that guided them to what could have been their last words and thoughts. What better way to do that than to remind everyone to look past the fear and connect with the greater powers of the universe, whatever they may be?

  12. @ Ron
    The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from Gary’s post is that he was “bothered” by the pilot’s exercise of poor judgment in exhorting passengers to pray because it was likely to incite panic among the passengers. Nowhere does the post even remotely suggest that Gary is bothered by the suggestion because he is intolerant.

  13. Not sure what is the issue with you… your blog is turning more of a taunting platform.
    I think pilot did a good thing by asking people to pray.
    Praying is an important part of any religion specially when you are in such life threatening circumstances.

  14. People get a life. We have prayer under attack, we have brought homophobia into the conversation, now can we now blame Trump?
    The world has gone to hell in a hand basket and there is no to tolerance left in humanity.

  15. You shouldn’t dismiss the cultural part of the prayer request. Stop being insensitive

  16. Yes, the pilot’s dumb prayer comment was enough to cause a lot of panic, instead of calmly explaining the problem and what they would be attempting to do about it. People can pray by themselves if they think it is any different than wishing. I would hate to think that the best the pilot can do is wish or pray.

  17. If you think a pilot’s obvious panic display is only found in places with unevolved airworthiness like Air Asia, recall that during the Continental/Colgan crash outside Buffalo the very young pilots, who had slept in a lounge after commuting from SEA to EWR to fly the plane, were heard screaming “We’re going to crash!” hysterically when it predictably started losing altitude during an inadvisable climb while iced and without adequate lift – one of the most common fatal scenarios pilots are trained against. They were paid $24,000 a year and not given hotel rooms. Colgan still operates, my last pilot on one of their commuter flights looked about 20 and had pimples and braces.

    This reminds me of when CRj-200’s were catching fire because ice tracked on the cockpit floor cripped into electronics bay under the floor, saved only by nearby fire extinguisher. I read the emergency repair bulletin that gave airlines months to repair it, asked my teenage-appearing pilots on a commuter CRJ-200 if they knew about it and they didn’t know anything about it or even where the electronics bay was located.

  18. I do not see how “asking to pray” increases the tension on a plane that is violently shaking and everyone knows one of the engine stopped working. I mean c’mon now.

    If you are a non-believer, I do not see how this can upset you on a malfunctioning plane….whatever make the pilot more comfortable doing his job, I am all for it.

  19. @ron i found your comment absurd. A pilot telling passengers to pray is like running around screaming we are all going to die. What they should have done was be honest and try to reassure people. Glad I didn’t book with this airline!

  20. Less commentary on the request for “prayer” and more commentary on how the plane flew for an hour with one engine and why it was shaking instead of “the engine did not make it shake” would be informative.
    Nobody really cares about the pilot’s choice of words, we do care about whether we should consider flying this airline and/or airplane.
    I have heard that a plane cannot fly for long after losing an engine, especially on a two engine plane. I thought the pilot had 30-40 minutes to find a place to land. So, my question is how far could the plane have flown with one or no engines?
    Another question for anyone, but particularly for airlines without reserved seating, in an emergency scenario such as this, or even motion sickness requiring an air sickness bag, how do you maximize the potential for a successful outcome for other customers and for minor’s/children in seats isolated from other family members? In an emergency situation, which seems to happen on a weekly basis now, are customers expected to assist unrelated minors or children that happen to be seated isolated from others in their travel party? As for me, a customer potentially seated next to an unrelated minor, am I expected to assist with the air sickness bag if the flight attendant is not available, or am I merely required to summon the appropriate guardian who could be seated anywhere else on the plane, especially if it is filled up?

    Yes Luv2Fly, if this was your plane, what do your simulations show other passengers doing to help randomly seated minors and/or children in various emergencies? In your simulation, with what frequency does the parent/guardian endanger other customers to get to the isolated minor/child or children? If necessary, assume that more than one travel party is randomly seated.
    I know you’re thinking: buy the priority boarding pass… right? Seriously, just publish the simulations.

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