A planeload of passengers onboard an Aer Lingus flight from Zurich to Dublin were mistakenly told that the aircraft was about to make an emergency landing in the sea, although flight attendants were seemingly none the wiser until panicked customers started to demand further information. A flight attendant eventually confirmed that there was no emergency and apologised for the mistake.
The incident occurred on Saturday aboard Are Lingus flight EI343 which took off from Zurich at around 11:10 am. Despite a seemingly drama-free flight, passengers were shocked to hear an automated emergency announcement en route to Dublin that said the Airbus A320 aircraft would soon have to ditch in the sea.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is an emergency. Please prepare for a ditched landing,” the announcement blasted over the intercom. Fearghal O’Lideacha, a passenger onboard the flight told the Irish Times said that despite the alarming nature of the message, the flight attendants remained behind curtains in the galley and weren’t responding to the unfolding drama.
Eventually, a passenger got up and went into the galley to find out what was happening and soon emerged looking a lot 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.
A spokesperson for Are Lingus confirmed that the wrong announcement was accidentally played and this indicated an emergency situation. “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 make use of pre-recorded announcements including for emergency situations such as in the event of a decompression, or to prepare passengers for an emergency landing. The announcement is activated from a central control system but the software on some aircraft is old and prone to user error.
Back in 2009, passengers onboard another Are Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris were sent into a panic after the French language version of an emergency landing announcement was played in error. The emergency announcement followed a routine English-language turbulence announcement.
It appears in that case that the flight attendant selected the English language turbulence announcement but got confused by the French language version and selected an emergency landing announcement instead.
During the same period, British Airways experienced a spate of similar incidents. In one case, passengers onboard a flight to Hong Kong were incorrectly told the plane would soon make an emergency landing before flight attendants admitted that someone had pressed the wrong button and the emergency announcement had been triggered by mistake.
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.”
Around 30 seconds later, a flight attendant came onto the intercom to inform passengers that the announcement was a mistake.
While automated emergency announcements can accidentally cause unneeded and unwarranted panic, sometimes they go unnoticed when they are, in fact, genuine. In another incident involving British Airways, oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling indicating a decompression but flight attendants responded as if it was a mistake because the volume on the emergency announcement system was set so low that they didn’t hear a decompression alert.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.