The Rome-bound flight, which took off from Addis Ababa, landed safely and the hijacker surrendered himself to local authorities, saying he took over the plane to seek asylum in Switzerland.
Providing a photo of his luggage tag from the flight as proof that he was indeed on the plane, the 25-year-old passenger (who happens to work in Geneva) also fielded questions from Reddit users. Here are some excerpts from his description of the flight, edited slightly for clarity:
Soon after takeoff:
As it was around midnight, I quickly fell asleep during take-off. I was waken up an hour later due to the sound of all the oxygen mask going down. I immediately thought « what the… » I looked at my neighbour, she seemed as confused at me: the plane was not behaving oddly so I thought it was a simple technical glitch or somebody pressed the wrong button.
Everybody looked at each other, thinking what’s going on. Suddenly, a deep and angry voice talked through the cabin radio: “SIT DOWN, PUT YOUR MASKS ON, I’M CUTTING THE OXYGEN”, three times. At this point, I realised that the situation is serious: someone is in the pilot cabin and has hijacked the plane.
During the flight:
I held hands the whole way with my seat neighbour, a very nice, simple older Italian woman. Every single second of those 6 hours of uncertainty and soon-to-be death was a psychological torture. I broke down, let everything go, said goodbye, though of my family, of moments in the past, of who will inherit my stuff and much more.
I was thinking : that’s it, we’re crashing into something. Looking down to the window I see a light, two, three, I can’t see what’s ahead. It’s still dark. We’re going fast, we’re flying over many houses now. And suddenly, under us, the airport. Just thinking again about this moment makes me shiver. We are landing. WE, are LANDING. Is this true ? Is this a miracle ?
We touched the ground, and the plane eventually stopped completely in a bit away from the plane entrance to the terminal. I remember crying, while most of the people (Italians) were applauding. At this point, for the first time in 6 hours, we got an update from the steward telling us about the copilot, that we are in Geneva and that soon the Swiss police will enter and evacuate the plane.
On the ground:
It took about 2-3 minutes person person to evacuate. An hour later, I was finally out. We were checked and accompanied very kindly by the Swiss. There were sand witches, hot chocolate, free wifi and psychologues. A few hours later, I could get my luggage and went out through normal gates.
Here are his answers to some user questions.
What were the flight attendants doing during the flight?
Flight attendants were reassuring, distributing drinks from time to time. Mostly sticking together and talking in Ethiopian. I went to see one of them “privately” to ask what the hell was going on. She said the captain has cut all communication between the crew and himself. But she said we’re going to land. I didn’t believe it.
Could you move around the plane?
Yes, we were moving freely. There was no sign of guards or anything in the cabin, apparently he was alone in the cockpit, locked. The stewardess were giving out water and saying safe words. However, you could see some of them were crying.
Will you ever fly again, and did you get help after landing?
Yes, I will fly again. The help was offered by the swiss: they really outdid themselves: great support, food, drinks, information, phone calls etc..
Did you consider “being a hero” and trying to take back the plane?
Yes, I thought about it a lot. Then I thought that since this guy has control, the risk is too big if we fail … I thought about it a lot but I was petrified.
Did you accept that you were going to die?
I think it’s like you are dying in a hospital bed. You’re scared, you know that it’s over soon and you ask yourself a lot of questions: do you have regrets, who will come to your funeral, is this real.. There nothing you can do, so you eventually accept it to 90%.
You can read the full Q&A on Reddit.
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