When an emergency was declared on board their plane over the Pacific Ocean this morning, passengers of Air New Zealand received a scary wake-up call.
Morgan Kelly was on an overnight flight NZ5 from Los Angeles to Auckland when in the middle of the night the cabin lights blinked on.
As oxygen masks fell from the sky and a loudspeaker started to play, “This is an emergency. This is an emergency. Put on your mask” she revealed to the Herald.
Kelly, 23, is a frequent flyer between LAX and Auckland and said the flight had been “totally uneventful” as usual, with minimal turbulence.
According to Kelly, the wake-up call was “insane,” and the passengers were shaken.
“All the flight attendants have to snap into it as if it was an emergency. Everybody was so shocked, including them – it was quite crazy.”
She observed at least two people experiencing panic attacks, including one who collapsed in the aisle and required calls for a doctor.
Everyone put on their masks, she said. “Then it was a harrowing 15 minutes of nobody knowing what was going on.
Kelly said she was struggling to recall some of the incidents, as she had blurted them out. But she remembered playing out in her mind the possibilities of what could happen.
“I think in my mind I was expecting to freak out. It was just ‘Bury it, bury it. I was listening to the sound of my heartbeat,” she said.
“We listened to the captain calling to the flight deck, asking us to put on our masks and follow instructions.
“He finally announced that they had double-checked everything and it seemed fine.”
The masks were left hanging for the remainder of the flight since Kelly knew they needed to be manually stowed.
“The captain mentioned that lots of the flight attendants had never dealt with this before – oxygen masks only deploy if there’s significant altitude drop or really severe turbulence.”
There was no nearby airport where the flight could be diverted to, and Auckland was still three hours away. The crew and captain assured the passengers, but they also said that as a safety measure, oxygen will continue to flow through the masks.
“People were quiet – but quietly scared,” she said. “It was three hours to land, and with them telling us about the weather in Auckland people were gripping their seats a little tighter.”
After landing just after 5 a.m., the captain apologized profusely to the passengers, Kelly recalled.
“I’ve never been more thankful to be on the ground.”
The incident on this morning’s flight was confirmed by an Air NZ representative, who also said that the captain and the inflight services manager had alerted passengers with a statement that came about two minutes after masks were put on.
“We are also in the process of getting in touch with customers on the flight to apologize for the disruption.”
As the aircraft fell from 34,000 feet to 27,000 feet, according to a statement from the airline’s chief operational integrity and safety officer Captain David Morgan, oxygen masks were automatically deployed to prevent anticipated turbulence.
“During this descent, an automated emergency warning activated requesting customers put on their oxygen masks,” Morgan said.
“We are sorry for the alarming wake-up call on this flight. This was not an emergency situation and the oxygen masks were not required. While our cabin crew and pilots worked quickly to reassure everyone on board, we know it was distressing for our customers.”
This morning, engineers were investigating the aircraft’s cabin monitoring system to determine the source of the issue, and they planned to remedy it before the subsequent flight.