Help for those on SIA flight that made emergency landing

Oxygen masks were deployed after the plane suddenly dropped altitude last Monday.
Oxygen masks were deployed after the plane suddenly dropped altitude last Monday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Psychiatric counselling offered to assist them in dealing with incident

Passengers and crew of the Singapore Airlines flight which made an emergency landing at Baku in Azerbaijan a week ago have been offered psychiatric counselling to help them deal with the incident.

SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides confirmed this and said: "It is the right thing to do."

Those who need assistance can contact the airline, which will make the necessary arrangements, he added.

The 467 travellers and 27 cabin crew were flying from London to Singapore when SQ flight 317 lost cabin pressure, prompting the automatic deployment of oxygen masks, which terrified many of those on board. It is believed there was a leak in one of the Airbus 380 aircraft's doors.

Ten hours after take-off, the aircraft landed safely at Baku airport but the travellers' ordeal was not over as they were stranded there for more than 15 hours.

They landed in Singapore last Tuesday afternoon, more than 30 hours after the original scheduled arrival time.

One of the passengers, Ms Rajween Kaur, 27, a research assistant at a medical centre in Boston, said counselling will be helpful.

She was watching a movie when suddenly the plane dropped altitude, the lights went off and the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling.

"I had no idea what was happening... I sent a WhatsApp message to my husband and other family members to tell them I love them. I thought I was going to die. It was just horrible."

Ms Kaur, who is in Singapore to attend a cousin's wedding, said: "I took a pill and slept for most of the flight back to Singapore from Azerbaijan. I am not looking forward to the long flight back home next weekend."

Even as some travellers and crew are still dealing with the incident, questions are being asked about why the aircraft left London despite a faulty door and why the pilot chose to land in Azerbaijan where a lack of airport and other facilities made the situation worse for passengers.

SIA has said the door was checked and certified safe before the flight. Other details are confidential as the incident is being investigated by Singapore's Air Accident Investigation Bureau, an aircraft investigation authority under the Ministry of Transport.

When contacted, Captain Mok Hin Choon, president of the SIA pilots' union, did not wish to comment on the specifics of the incident, given the official probe.

But he said there are different factors that pilots take into consideration in an emergency situation.

"For example, if the flight needs to descend very promptly we need to take into account the surrounding terrain which would affect the descent path. In this case, the flight was over high mountainous terrain."

Communication needs to be established with air traffic control of the relevant authority to confirm if the flight and aircraft can be accommodated.

Capt Mok said: "Pilots are adequately trained to deal with any emergency that may occur during flight. At all times, safety is paramount and is never compromised."

The affected A-380, which has been grounded in Azerbaijam since the incident, will return to Singapore in the coming days after the door is replaced. Further checks will be done here.

karam@sph.com.sg