Passengers on a flight from Australia to Bali on Sunday say they were terrified when the plane cabin depressurized at around 34,000 feet and then rapidly descended about 23,000 feet in a matter of minutes.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ535 from Perth was carrying 145 passengers to the holiday island when the plane suddenly depressurized and then descended to 10,000 feet — where pressurized cabins aren’t necessary — in about nine minutes.
The pilot turned back to Perth “following a technical issue,” the airline said in a statement reported by USA Today, and the plane landed without incident 78 minutes after it it took off.
The budget airline commended its pilots for landing safely “and complying with standard operating procedure,” AirAsia Group head of safety Captain Ling Liong Tien said. “We are fully committed to the safety of our guests and crew and we will continue to ensure that we adhere to the highest safety standards.”
But passengers say they were afraid and confused, and that to make things worse, the crew appeared to be panicking.
“The panic was escalated because of the behavior of staff who were screaming, looked tearful and shocked,” one passenger told reporters. “Now, I get it, but we looked to them for reassurance and we didn’t get any, we were more worried because of how panicked they were.”
“Hostesses started screaming: ‘Emergency, emergency.’ They just went hysterical,” another passenger told Seven Network.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says is now investigating the incident.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the country’s industry regulator, also said it has asked Indonesia AirAsia for more information on what happened.
“Our job as the regulator is to gather information on these sorts of events and review that to see whether we’re satisfied that everything was managed properly and determine whether we should dig any deeper,” a spokesman for the group told USA Today.