Passengers on an Aer Lingus flight from Zurich to Dublin were incorrectly informed that the plane was going to make an emergency landing in the water, although flight attendants appeared to be unaware of the situation until terrified passengers began to demand further information.
After confirming that there was no emergency, a flight attendant apologized for the mistake.
The incident occurred on Are Lingus aircraft EI343, which took a departure from Zurich at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday. Despite an apparently routine trip, passengers were shocked when they heard an automated emergency announcement en route to Dublin, stating that the Airbus A320 aircraft will soon have to make an emergency landing in the sea.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an emergency. Please prepare for a ditched landing,” the announcement blasted over the intercom.
Despite the alarming tone of the message, Fearghal O’Lideacha, a passenger on board the flight, told the Irish Times that the flight attendants stayed behind curtains in the galley and were not responding to the emerging scenario.
A passenger eventually got up and walked into the galley to find out what was going on, and came out looking much more at ease.
“Then one of the flight crew made an announcement that we should ignore the earlier announcement. That was a big relief. I’d say it was about two minutes later,” Mr. O’Lideacha said.
According to an Are Lingus spokeswoman, the incorrect announcement was mistakenly played, indicating an emergency scenario.
“A follow-up announcement was made advising passengers of the error. At no point during the flight was there any risk to the safety of the aircraft or those on board,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Most airlines employ pre-recorded messages for a variety of reasons, including emergency scenarios such as decompression or to prepare passengers for an emergency landing.
The announcement is made through a central control system, however, some aircraft’s software is outdated and prone to operator error.
Passengers on an Are Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris panicked in 2009 when the French language version of an emergency landing alert was accidentally played. Following an unusual English-language turbulence announcement, the emergency announcement was made.
The flight attendant appears to have chosen the English language turbulence alert but was confused by the French language version and instead chose an emergency landing announcement.
British Airways had a series of similar accidents around the same time.
Passengers on a flight to Hong Kong were wrongly informed that the plane would be making an emergency landing just before flight attendants revealed that someone had touched the wrong button and the emergency announcement had been made by accident.
Two years later, passengers aboard a BA flight from Miami to London were awoken in the middle of the night by a jarring message that blared; “This is an emergency, we will shortly be making an emergency landing on water.”
After about 30 seconds, a flight attendant appeared over the microphone to tell passengers that the statement had been made in error.
While automated emergency announcements might provoke unnecessary and excessive worry, they can also go ignored when they are real.
In another British Airways incident, oxygen masks fell from the ceiling, signifying a decompression, but flight attendants acted as if it was a mistake because the emergency announcement system’s volume was set so low that they didn’t hear the decompression alert.