PETALING JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - An Australian passenger on board AirAsia X flight D7237 has defended the low cost carrier and the pilot against critics, saying that they should be praised and not blamed for the incident.
In a compelling first person account of the Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight, 15-year-old Madeline Wright wrote in a viral Facebook post that AirAsia and the pilot had done their best to keep all 359 people on board safe and calm during the incident and its aftermath.
"It disgusts me that people are criticising our captain for telling us to pray and are trying to get him fired," Wright wrote on Tuesday (June 27).
"The full context was, 'everything is under control in the cockpit. If you want to say a prayer, that might help too'," she said, adding that his urge for prayer was said in a way that comforted them.
Wright, who was embarking on a family holiday to Vietnam, stressed that the pilot made them feel safe and supplied them with sufficient information.
"He was a reassuring voice during this event and gave us hope, he is the reason I am still alive and I cannot thank him enough."
Wright also hit back at critics laying blame of the incident on AirAsia's low fare, explaining that unexpected technical difficulties could happen to any airline.
"The fact that we and other passengers paid less for a flight is not the reason for this plane's accident ... We didn't pay less for a technical problem, we paid less for no electronic devices, no meals and less leg room," she said.
Wright said after the plane successfully landed in Perth Airport, the passengers were tolerant and patient during the three-hour wait as the airline did its best to make them feel comfortable with vouchers for food and water.
She said during the wait, they were given the choice of full refunds of tickets, a rescheduled flight, or to wait at the airport for a later flight.
"It took time because during the chaos period, they needed to work out a plan and then communicate that plan. I'd rather wait to get one correct story than get four hastily-delivered wrong stories," she said.
Wright urged people to stop the criticism as AirAsia and its crew had done their best and ensured everyone's safety.
When contacted, Wright 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 scared 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".
The flight bound for Kuala Lumpur from Perth was forced to turn back after the Airbus A330 encountered technical difficulties.
According to reports, the aircraft was shaking like a "washing machine" during the two-hour flight back to the Perth Airport.
The aircraft landed safely at 10am on Sunday and all passengers were safely transferred to the next available flight or to the recovery flight at 11.40pm on the same day.
In a statement issued on Monday, AirAsia X said it is currently conducting an investigation into the cause of the incident together with the engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce.
It added that it was also cooperating fully with the local aviation authorities.