Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You Will All Die- Turn Tape Over

See article from yahoo.ca:

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways apologized to passengers after an emergency message warning they were about to crash into the sea was played by mistake.

About 275 passengers were on the London Heathrow to Hong Kong flight on Tuesday evening when the automated message went out. The plane was flying over the North Sea at the time.

Cabin crew quickly realized the error and moved to reassure the terrified passengers.

"We all thought we were going to die," Michelle Lord, 32, of Preston, northern England, told The Sun newspaper.

Another passenger was reported saying: "I can't think of anything worse than being told your plane's about to crash."

A spokesman for British Airways said an investigation was under way to discover whether it was human error or a computer glitch.

"We apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue distress," he added in a statement.

"Our cabin crew immediately made an announcement following the message advising customers that it was an error and that the flight would continue as normal."

(end of article)

The first question is: if you were about to crash into the middle of the ocean while trapped on a plane, wouldn't you want a real-time message over the intercom by a person? Who uses an automated doomsday message to tell you that you are all about to die? Is it because no employee can realistically be expected to say this calmly over the intercom in a real life emergency? Well, fair enough, but maybe it shouldn't be automated. Maybe it should be like the red phone that only gets used for emergencies. Maybe it should be a red button next to the usual intercom automated messages, such as 'fasten seatbelt' and 'request more coffee'.

Second of all, how is this a simple error? It appears to be a critical issue. Asking for peanuts and getting pretzels is an error, but being told that you're about to crash into the ocean, and then, ha ha, no, situation normal, go back to your onboard film starring Rob Schneider, THAT is not an error. A serious revision needs to be done of the automated messaging systems of these planes, or else, you're going to have a terrified cabin throughout your trans-Atlantic trip, or a real emergency is going to happen one day and passengers will just sit there with their bonbons and blankets, blissfully unaware.

Third, how about the airline's statement that they apologize for causing undue stress? Undue stress? What about cardiac arrest? Fear of God? Paralyzing phobia and childhood issues resurgence? Any of those things would be on my list of issues related to a near-death in flight experience over the ocean. This is the kind of scare that requires therapy, not smelling salts.

It's hard to believe that in an age where air safety is a primary concern for governments and citizens alike, that this sort of thing would be allowed to happen. Travel can be tough on people, but it shouldn't be anything like the gong show it is today, with random patdowns, checks and mass paranoia anytime someone spots a toothpick. British Airways owes their customers far more than an apology; after all that aggravation, it owes them at least a drink.

At least one.

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