My Royal Jordanian flight from hell…

A lot of people write about their flights from hell — the service was bad, the food was crappy, or the flight was late.

I’ve flown about 2.5 million “butt in seat” miles in my life, and for that matter am also a private pilot, so it takes quite a bit to scare me. So if you don’t want to believe what I say or think I’m just crazy or exaggerating, I respect that. Though given that this isn’t my first rodeo, I do ask you give me the benefit of the doubt on this one.


Royal Jordanian A330

With that out of the way, my Royal Jordanian flight today was the first one ever that literally brought me to tears. I’m now sitting in the The Wing (Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge in Hong Kong) and feel like I have a new chance at life. I’m feeling mighty thankful, and am trying my best to suppress my feelings of anger towards the pilots… though I realize perhaps I owe them a bit of gratitude as well.


Royal Jordanian Crown Class

Where do I start? I flew Royal Jordanian from Bangkok to Hong Kong today. The goal was to fly a new airline, and Bangkok to Hong Kong is one of those markets that’s served by a bunch of random airlines, like Emirates, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways, and Royal Jordanian, just to name a few. On the flight I was actually jotting down my thoughts about how horrible the flight was — the service was indifferent and I was disgusted more than anything else by how the male flight attendants sat in the galley doing nothing the whole flight, while the foreign female flight attendants were doing all the work.

But food, service, etc., really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Safety matters.

Back to the actual flight (ignoring the “service”). About 45 minutes out of Hong Kong I was working on my laptop. The flight attendant abruptly told me to put it away. We were 45 minutes out, so I really didn’t know why, and was almost a bit miffed given that we were barely halfway through the flight. About 30 minutes out of Hong Kong the flight attendant gets on the PA to inform us that we will be circling for about 30 minutes in Hong Kong due to heavy traffic. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, assuming there was just evening congestion, as is common in Hong Kong. The lady seated across from us flipped a $*&^, and told the flight attendant that the pilot should negotiate for a five minute hold instead.

We continued our descent and held at what must have been a pretty low altitude, because we were right in the thick of the clouds and rain. We saw the occasional lightning strike. My friend and I have both seen just about every episode of Air Crash Investigation, and we both thought the same thing at the same time — this is starting to feel a bit like an episode of Air Crash Investigation. We weren’t entirely serious since it wasn’t horrible yet, but it was starting to get bad.

There aren’t words that can describe the next 30 minutes. The aircraft had more up and down movement than I’ve ever experienced before. That doesn’t scare me in the slightest, though. What scared me a little bit was that we were in the middle of lightning storm that was so much more severe than anything I’ve ever experienced before. The cabin lit up from the left, and the cabin lit up from the right. We got struck by lightning at least once, if not twice (I’ve been on two flights before that have been struck by lightning, and it made the same loud “thump” noise as then). At one point, the hail hitting the aircraft was so loud I couldn’t hear what my friend was trying to tell me. There are no words that can do justice to how the situation felt. So I won’t even try to describe it, other than saying again that I’ve flown 2.5 million miles and have never experienced anything even half this bad.

I’ve never before been on a flight that I actually thought was going to crash. This was the first. The regret and hopelessness that runs through your head is truly indescribable. I put my passport in my pocket, and immediately felt regret for not sending my family my itinerary. I turned my phone off airplane mode and waited for a signal so I could text my family and tell them which flight I was on and that I loved them.

And more than anything else I felt regret. Regret for flying Royal Jordanian. Why? Because in the entire 45 minutes that we seemed to be in “doom” neither of the pilots made a single announcement. Interestingly the Jordanian men kept their cool, but everyone else was crying or praying. Here’s the thing — pilots making soothing announcements serves two purposes. It’s not just to soothe the passengers, but it shows a level of professionalism and competence that you want from the captain of a heavy aircraft. The captain didn’t make a single announcement the entire time we were in the air, and the message that sends to passengers is either a) that he doesn’t care enough that passengers are obviously hysterical given the situation or b) that he wasn’t proficient enough to make a single announcement in addition to flying the plane, or for that matter wasn’t proficient in delegating the duties between the two pilots. We were circling for 45 minutes, so surely the captain or first officer could have taken 30 seconds to make an announcement and explain the situation. Not only would it have reassured all the crying passengers, but it would have shown a level of competence that wasn’t otherwise displayed.

Anyway, words can’t describe the situation, and while I limited my expression of fear for the entirety of the turbulence to sweaty palms, when the landing gear was extended and runway in sight I literally started crying. And when we touched down most passengers in the cabin clapped.

When we made it to the gate I was angry and thankful — thankful we made it safely, but angry by the unprofessionalism shown by the pilots. On the way out I asked the macho male flight attendants what they thought of the flight, and they both said it was the worst of their lives. As the cabin door was about to open one of the female flight attendants emerged from the cockpit with her makeup smeared all over her face from crying, and she said she was in the cockpit the entire approach as the pilots “needed her help.” She also passed on that the captain said he was going to retire after that flight.

So anyway, I’m sure y’all are enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning and think I’m crazy, but I’ll simply say I’m thankful to be alive. This flight really put our whole little hobby into perspective for me. While I’ll continue to fly, I will make a couple of changes:

— I’ll always make sure my family knows which flights I’m on. While flying is still the safest mode of transportation out there, you don’t have the ability to pick up your phone mid-flight and call your family if something goes wrong. When I was young my oldest brother passed away, and the last thing I’d ever want is for something to happen to me (for the sake of my parents), only for them not to know whether I was actually on a flight or not.

— I’m going to think twice about which airlines I fly. For one, I’ll never fly Royal Jordanian again. Any airline which has pilots that display such a high level of unprofessionalism and don’t even make a single announcement aren’t worth flying. Not even when we were safely on the ground did either of the pilots make a single announcement. Almost everyone in the cabin was crying. How disconnected from reality can a pilot be if they can’t even make an announcement in such a situation explaining what’s going on? Captain, here’s a tip — if the flight attendant that was in the cockpit during the entire approach is crying, chances are the folks in the back are as well.

When we landed, the flight attendant made a brief announcement welcoming us to Hong Kong and saying he hopes to see us again on Royal Jordanian, like nothing even happened. Of course, he was the one who said it was the worst flight of his life when asked.

Again, I probably seem crazy, but I’m breathing easier than I ever have before. Life is good.

Comments

  1. Screw. That. I would have lost it and had to book a cruise ship back to the US.

    Well told.

    Pilots MUST make announcement.

  2. good story.. I live in HK and the rain really started to come down hard today.. I could definitely imagine how bad it was up in the skies. Good that you’re safe and sound…

    On another note… Give Pakistan Airlines a pass as well if you ever feel the need to fly them. Had a flight that was scheduled at 1630, delayed to 1900. They boarded everyone at 1945. Plane ended up not leaving until 0015. They just kept everyone onboard and similar to your situation, ZERO announcements from the Cockpit. Nobody had a clue what was going on, including the flight attendants.

  3. Any reason you can think of that they didn’t divert? I can’t imagine any US pilots flying through a red cell for 45 minutes.

  4. @ Michael — Not to be the back seat pilot, but that was the part that I *really* didn’t get. We were circling through hell for about 45 minutes. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why we weren’t diverting, or for that matter if we were in a holding pattern, why we’d do so in the middle of a horrible thunderstorm rather than a bit higher where the weather was fine.

    I’d be curious if anyone has a good explanation for that, because the pilot in me really wondered why that was going on, and that was actually one of the main reasons I questioned the decisions of the cockpit crew.

  5. Your experience gave me the shivers while reminding me to be grateful for every day, enjoy every great (and mundane) experience, and tell those I care about how thankful I am that they are in my life. So glad your friend and you (and the rest of the passengers and crew) are safe, and thank you for your honesty and forthrightness.

  6. Incredible. Hey man, I’m glad you’re safe and sound. I know a guy who trained to Hong Kong from London because he hates flying. Maybe a boat isn’t a bad idea right now? :-p
    But do you really think different airlines would have pilots that would handle it differently? Who knows, you’ve never been on a flight half as bad, right? Not saying your wrong, just wondering how we would know RJ would be so much worse… I mean announcement-wise. No idea why then didn’t try Shenzhen or something.

  7. You see things like this on Discovery Channel all the time, but to read a first-person description of a scary air situation is quite dramatic. Glad all ended up well and thanks for sharing, Lucky.

  8. While I’m not that knowledgeable about flight procedures, surely much of the blame for keeping you in the stormc cell belongs to the controllers, doesn’t it. And I suppose its possible that the pilots were so busy handling the plane that they didn’tfeel comfortable making an announcement while in the air. Even still, very odd that they didn’t say anything once on the ground.

  9. @ Travel Is Free — Yes, I absolutely do think other pilots would have handled it differently. I’ve been on an Air New Zealand flight that was struck by lightning. The captain promptly came on the PA to reassure us everything was okay. I’ve been on a British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Sri Lankan flight with a go around (which are hardly out of the ordinary), and the pilots all promptly made PA announcements.

    Why do I think other pilots would have handled it differently? Because I’d hope they’re all humans with feelings. If the flight attendant was in the cockpit crying, I think it’s safe to assume that the captain knew there were other people crying. Clearly that didn’t bother him enough to take 30 seconds to make an announcement. I’d hope pilots at most other airlines are sufficiently in touch with reality to care enough to comfort people. Even if this guy is a great aviator, he should be in a cargo plane.

    And even giving the captain the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume they were both so busy up front that they couldn’t make a single announcement. After landing couldn’t they have at least made an announcement explaining what had happened?

    I feel confident in saying this guy just didn’t give a crap about the people in the back, and that’s not a trait I like for someone responsible for 200 peoples’ lives.

  10. @ LarryInNYC — There’s no doubt the controllers were responsible for our path, though they’re not up in the sky experiencing what’s going on.

    Again, I don’t want to play back seat pilot, but I think it’s safe to assume the captain could have requested a higher altitude or could have requested a diversion. I feel like the pilots just blindly followed the controller’s instructions.

    Reminds me a bit of the Avianca flight that ran out of fuel over New York while in a holding pattern to land at JFK. They knew how low they were on fuel, but they just followed the instructions of the controllers till they were literally out of fuel without expressing the urgency of the situation.

  11. Sounds rather exactly like a flight from EWR to SFO on CO. Lightning hits, circling, and a couple missed approaches. Not a word from the cockpit. Likely too busy, which is fine.

    We did have a greaser of a landing the third time in.

  12. Thanks for sharing, I am glad you are OK and sorry you had to suffer through that ordeal. I would suggest a little follow up, first it would be interesting to know if other flights inbound to HK diverted and if the RJ flight out of HK was delayed for aircraft inspection and/or repair.

    For journalistic integrity, I think you should write RJ air a letter with a copy of your post asking for their perspective on the flight, why the pilots were silent and why the flight did not divert. While you will probably get corporate PR speak it still might be illuminating for you and your readers.

    May your future travels be safe and your problems be limited to the quality of food and service not life threatening.

  13. Sorry, but this is self-indulgent tosh. So your flight had terrible problems in the stack and on approach – the pilots have no duty whatsoever to keep passengers informed and you should know that. Their primary concern will have been to keep the aircraft (and by association, you and the other passengers) in the air in what sounds like a very tricky set of circumstances. You said yourself that one of the cabin crew was in the cockpit to help the pilots, so it should be fairly obvious that they were handling a situation and – given that you landed safely – they appear to have handled it well. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that they didn’t fancy being distracted by making an announcement (likely in their second language) over the intercom.

    As far as I can see, the only person at fault here is you, for turning on your phone during the approach in violation of international regulations.

  14. Wow, indeed. Sorry you had to experience that. I probably would have needed a pair of depends to get thru that. Glad you are ok now and you have a (somewhat) new perspective on your travel. We always let not only our parents, but our siblings as well, know our travel itinerary. I know my mom for sure is not happy until she gets a call after arrival or my dad monitors flight tracker when available. (And she was a flight attendant and my dad a pilot for TWA).
    I think this experience will help you define a risk vs benefit when considering trying new (to you) in-flight products. Your safety and well being is more important than anything else. Safe travel onwards Lucky.

  15. That sounds rough. Glad you’re ok. At least you’re now in the comfort of The Wing. Go relax in the Cabanas 🙂

  16. Glad your okay Lucky! I think even an Air Koryo Pilot would have made an PA. It sickens me that a pilot did not make a pa or Divert to another Airport if HKGs weather was so bad

  17. “Any flight you walk away from is a good one”

    This does sound quite scary though. I was actually considering flying RJ also later this year from HKG to BKK. I ended up booking CX instead because of a better schedule and lower fees using Avios. Sounds like I made a good choice!

    I also wonder if the pilots were so scared that announcements didn’t occur to them? Extreme fear can cause irrationality which is a possibility here.

    I’m not trying to make an excuse for zero announcements from the pilots just looking at different angles. Regardless it is unacceptable to not inform the passengers or at least apologize for it.

  18. I’m sorry this happened to you – it really sounds stressful and as a nervous flyer myself, I understand the need to hear the pilot’s announcements. I’m sure you will have better flights now, statistics are on your side!

  19. Have to agree with a few other people, while it’s great that everyone is ok, if it got to the point where the pilots needed a 3rd person on the flight deck and she was obviously crying because it was probably scary as hell inside there, especially with the mention that the Captain was going to retire after, maybe it’s possible there was no announcement because they were too busy trying to keep everyone from dying.

    While I get the frustration and stress of the flight, I think next time you need to relax for several more hours before making a post like this.

    It’s possible they didn’t divert because the weather was just as bad in China and they didn’t have fuel for anywhere else, I mean who is going to know.

    I think in a situation where it was that stressful for the flight crew and they are concentrating 150% on landing the plane safely, making an announcement to make you happy is not a top priority and this is a bit of a selfish post.

  20. Oh my goodness, Lucky! We flew in to Hong Kong earlier in the day and, thank goodness, it was nothing like that! I hope you didn’t have to get right back on another flight! If you are staying in HK for a bit, would you like to meet up for breakfast? (I’m assuming you’d be at the Conrad, which is where we are staying) If you’re just transiting, good luck with the rest of your trip!

  21. A flight like that does get the adrenaline flowing, but I’m kind of surprised you haven’t run into similar situations. You really wonder if you are about to crash when the flight attendants start preparing for an emergency evacuation (they never say crash landing) and are collecting eyeglasses and high heeled shoes. Happen to me twice with the landing gear not fully deployed.

    Also on a puddle jumper into dtw in the middle of winter, ice started to build up on the wings and we made a “hard” landing. The pilot popped out from behind the curtain all covered in sweat to say “welcome to mf Detroit”.

    And if you are old enough you can remember flying in and out of ATL in the summer through thunderstorms with lightning hitting the plane and all around you. Good thing they don’t fly like that nowadays.

    The stories are endless.

  22. Lucky,

    I emailed you a while ago about NOT taking Ethiopian airlines.

    This is a similar situation. The fact of the matter is that pilots are trained very differently around the world, and the culture of certain airlines play a major role in safety.

    Lots of Asian and Middle eastern Airlines do not give the level of captains authority to their pilots that’s needed to allow them to make the proper safety decisions. They must do what they are told by the company and ATC or risk their job. They have no pilot union to back them. If a pilot from Delta or United was told to hold for 45 mins in a red cell he would laugh and divert. The culture of Royal Jordanian and other third world airlines doesn’t allow their pilots to make such a decision.

    How do I know?

    10 years in the Air Force, flying in AFSOC working with pilots from all over the world. Start my commercial job next month.

    My father flew USAF / Airlines for 30 years and is now and Safety Program manager at the FAA in DC.

    Granddad flew for Pan Am for 30 years, United for 5 and Cathay for 5. He also advised Royal Jordanian on training procedures in the late 80’s.

  23. The only in air excuse (beyond emergencies) would be if the flight was below 10,000 feet – it’s a sterile cockpit and pilots are not allowed to make announcements (at least for US Carriers).

    With that said, there is NO excuse once landed for the pilot to explain things.

    Sadly, many pilots fail to make those necessary calming announcements – a short update goes a long way to reassure people someone is in charge and all is well.

  24. @ Rachel — Sadly getting right back on a plane to the US. Fortunately on Cathay Pacific this time, and the weather has gotten a bit nicer. Enjoy HK!

  25. For someone who has flown as much as you, for this incident to have such a profound effect is telling. There is something about Hong Kong weather that can lead to some really crazy flight conditions. Crazy that the captain didn’t say a word, but does sound like their hands were completely full trying to control the plane.

    Thankfully they weren’t trying to land at Kai Tak…that was always a fun landing even without the weather!

  26. I think a couple of you are being a bit harsh on Ben. I had a similar situation occur while circling around Delhi on a KLM flight a few years ago. The pilots did re-assure the hysterical passengers (myself included) and it made all the difference in the world.

  27. @ Bobby @ Scott — I think you may both be onto something. Maybe I was underestimating just how bad the situation was. The third person on the cockpit does seem weird, and maybe they were so busy keeping the plane in the air because conditions were *that* bad to the point that they couldn’t make an announcement. And maybe the captain was in the worst shape of everyone upon landing, and really wasn’t in a mental state to say anything.

    That might explain why the situation was *so* bad.

  28. Bad post. Knee jerk reaction. You should follow the rule don’t post while angry (or in this case scared). Instead of ranting on about the pilots not giving you an explanation after landing (which invokes images of a spoiled 12yr old wearing boat shoes), did you consider thanking them for getting you though a serious weather situation. Seriously, I’d be shaking thier hand not stomping my feet.

  29. Why are you thankful to be alive? Why not happy to be alive, or lucky to be alive? I never understand why people say thankful :-).

    It might be interesting to find out how often planes get stuck in weather like you experienced today. Then you can figure out how much danger you were really in.

    Anyway happy to hear everybody is safe!

  30. I’m here in HK at the tailend of a family vacation. We got caught in the lighting rain storm this afternoon…luckily just soaked – Who would have known you too were caught up in it. I’m glad you’re OK. Hope our flight home tomorrow is uneventful!!

  31. Remember, the number one priority of the cabin crew, pilots included, is your safety. That is mentioned many times throughout the entire flying process. In that situation, any one, including the FA, could make an announcement. If flying through a storm is not the safest route, than they should have diverted or had some Ba**$ to reposition. It sounds like the safety of the crew and passengers was not the highest priority. Yes aircraft are made to take a beating, but this was extreme. All joking aside, have some compassion. Flying is a safe business, but can also be a scary business. I’m with Lucky on this one.

  32. This has happened to me on an Emirates flight from HYD -> DXB 2 years ago where there was terrible turbulence over the Indian Ocean where they suspended service 20 minutes into the flight. To top it off, we had two wheels down in DXB and had to take off again. The explanation was given 20 minutes after the failed landing that an A380 was on the runway!

  33. Wow. Definitely sounds like a horrific experience. I don’t know if this is an RJ issue or not. An announcement seems like it would have been appropriate, but I would givethem the benefit of the doubt.

    RJ isn’t my favorite airline by any means, but I didn’t have any problems with service on the 2 flights I had on them. Both of mine were long haul. At the time the only biz class point of reference I had was Cathay Pacific, but even with that I didn’t have anything bad to say about it except a pretty inefficient check-in process in Amman that had me struggling to even make my flight despite being there plenty early. They had a biz classcheck-in

  34. Sorry, hit wrong button on my phone and it published before finishing. To finish my thought, RJ had a biz class check-in line in BKK, but not their home in AMM. It just was a giant headache and cluster. Otherwise, no complaints about RJ beyond that.

  35. I’m glad you’re ok. Please do follow up after you’ve had some time to process and reflect on everything. Do you plan to reach out to the airline and inform them of how the pilots and crew didn’t do anything to maintain some calm in the cabin?

  36. How easy it can be to get lulled into all our preoccupations (self indulgent obsessions) with whether or not the seat in business/first reclines fully or only partially.

    Flying is not always a walk in the park with weather. That being acknowledged, like you I would be angry and resentful that someone, or a series of someones, put that aircraft at that level and on that vector…and didn’t change it.

    The amount of traffic, most of it international, and difficulty generating quick diversion possibilities surely contributed. Why the pilots didn’t exercise some measure of priority decision making to move out of that is the “unprofessional” question that looms – – not that they didn’t make any announcements. I’d be frustrated too.

    A little perspective for you and your readers today.

  37. Yea, that sounds very odd. I guess I mean to ask, why would it be a trait of the airline and not the pilot? Do they hire cheaper pilots? I just mean that he could have been an AZ pilot and reacted the same way.
    I don’t mean to doubt that the pilot surely made things worse and sorry, that sucks. But I’m just asking why you seem to say it’s a trait of the airline?

  38. It’s this kind of “machismo” that leaves little question about why the Middle East has been the land of tit-for-tat justice for millennia.

  39. @ Travel Is Free — I think it’s very much a cultural thing (both company culture and “culture” culture), as CJ explains above. It all comes down to how airlines train their pilots and how much liberty they give them to make the best decisions.

    For example, I once sat next to a senior United captain who trained Korean Air pilots in the simulators, and he said how frustrating it was to train them. He said at Korean Air the first officer would NEVER second guess the captain, and that’s a problem because it’s like having only one set of eyes. He explained that when the captains got their check rides it couldn’t be in front of the first officers, because it would bring shame to them to get corrected in front of a more junior pilot.

    So I think culture (both company and “culture” culture) play a HUGE part in the quality of pilots.

  40. WOW ! Hard to add anything new here, but my heartfelt comment I am glad all the passengers on all the planes that were left in holding patterns are alive. I hope you are on your way to your new home in the Pacific Northwest where we are having our first warm and sunny weekend of the year.

  41. First off, Ben, I think poster “Angry” is an out-of-touch douche.

    That aside, I’m glad you posted this. You presented a reality in your writing that goes far beyond the quality of food and the condition of seats. That’s what makes your blog entertaining. But today, I felt, from your writing, like I experienced it with you.

    Years ago, I was a “white knuckle” flier. I hated it. Then, I was promoted to a job where weekly air travel was required. I survived, and thrived, and learned over the last 15 years to not only enjoy flying, but to relish the journey! It was because of two things. First was Channel 9 on United. When the plane felt it was going to turn upside down from turbulence, I heard calm, professional pilots talking to ATC. I also flew with a number of dead-heading pilots who answered questions for me, even though they were just heading to or from work. Most of all, announcements from the cockpit are critical for some people. They reassure. We’re not robots. My first go-around 20 years ago scared the crap out of me, but a calm captain came on and told me everything I needed to know. And so has every captain or F.O. in the 20 or so goarounds I’ve had since.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you are OK.

  42. Glad you are OK.

    Question for cockpit crews reading please. What would the FA be doing to,help in the cockpit? Are they trained to do something in a case like this.

    The only time I even thought this happened were in movies. As in Flight, with Denzel Washington.

  43. Ben, glad you and everyone are safe. We all need to be thankful and happy of what we have and alive.

  44. I can’t say I’m overly surprised about this. I’ve worked with some former Royal Jordanian pilots in the past and their safety culture left a lot to be desired. Granted, that may have been the reason why they were “former” RJ pilots, but its hard to change something as fundamental as an airline’s safety culture in anything less than a generation.

    You will probably see a similar culture with Egyptair, Kuwait Airways and a few other legacy national airlines in the region, although all of them are working hard to change things. The “new generation” of carriers like Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, etc.. have a very different mindset inbred from day one and it shows in their operations.

  45. Glad you are ok.

    I’m looking at the HKG FIDs app on Android…it looks like RJ182 arrived at the gate about 20 min late. It looks like a lot of the other flights arriving around the same time were 30 min to one hour late.

    It appears the storm system is primarily to the south of HKG. http://www.weather.com/maps/geography/asia/index_large.html

    I wonder if they didn’t have good weather info from BKK as it’s an outstation? It looks to me like they could have tracked further to the west and avoided a good bit of the soup.

  46. @Cruisr – There is no reason that an additional (untrained) cabin crew member would have an operational role in the cockpit during an approach and landing. She may have chosen to ride on the jumpseat for the “experience” (which is encouraged to improve CRM when there are sufficient crew to man the cabin jumpseats), but she would play no actual role there. Procedures are written for two pilots and getting a third person involved would mean a significant deviation from SOPs, something even the stupidest captain is not going to try in the middle of a thunderstorm.

  47. In the past, I had the Delta flight experience that was truly awful. After a long flight back from Europe, the connecting plane was three hours late taking off, and then encountered bad weather and the plane was struck by lightning. The pilot made an annoucementthey were going to try and land the plane, but there might be a “slight diversion to Albuquerque,” if they could not land the plane.

    The plane did not divert and actually landed 5 hours late from the original arrival time. The pilot made no apology and annouced,”thank you for flying Delta and we hope to see you again.” I have not ever flown Delta again in nearly 20 years.

  48. Regular reader but rare commenter here, very glad to hear you made it safely to HKG!

    Completely agree that at a minimum the pilot should have made some sort of announcement after the aircraft was safely on the ground.

    Also, not sure if this will make you feel any better, but based on your description of the flight, and as someone with a masters in aerospace/mechanical engineering from a top 10 university, fortunately IMHO it does not sound as if the integrity of the aircraft or safety of the flight was in jeopardy at any point in time. This still does not excuse the pilot not making an announcement upon landing though IMHO, and agree as well that they likely could have diverted, but that is another issue, and tough to judge there with limited facts.

    Anyway, I have worked for two major Airbus/Boeing suppliers, and my father (MS in structural engineering) has also worked for major aerospace suppliers, including one company that has exclusive contracts with Boeing/Airbus (also for multiple aircraft for the USAF), including all A330 variants, that fabricates and designs in house the proprietary, composite damping/vibration/noise reduction material used in the fuselage and other areas of the aircraft. I have seen this stuff fabricated in person, fully designed to go through extreme hailstorms and be struck by lightning multiple times back to back without any structural failures occurring.

    Without getting into the complicated fluid/structural mechanics or design of the material though, just because it is fully designed for these conditions with ridiculous safety factors, does NOT mean that pilots should not do everything in their power to minimize exposure to extreme conditions like this.

    And of course your average customer on the flight does not know any of this. If you are interested in any further details on this though, just let me know and I can send you some info on the company that fabricates/designs the material…

    Hope you have a much more relaxing flight on CX as well, and would probably not fly RJ myself anytime soon…

  49. @Crusir, me too. I immediately thought the scene from the movie, Flight when I see the flight attendant had to help in the cockpit. I’m glad you landed safely. How did your friend feel about this flight?

  50. Sounds harrowing. Glad you are alright. In this hobby, I think sometimes we need to think about all the unnecessary miles that we tack on chasing miles and trips. It’s easy to blame royal Jordanian but it could have happened on any airline. Indeed when you fly as many miles as we do, it’s bound to happen. And each extra flight segment just adds to the risk. An analogous situation would be a trucker of an 18 wheeler who logs thousands of miles on the freeway. sooner or later he’s going to run into an icy road on a stormy night. each extra trip he takes is another spin of the wheel.

  51. Unfortunately, there are MANY airlines, some of which far more reputable than RJ, where the cockpit crew makes no announcements. Earlier this month, I flew transpacific outbound on JL and inbound on KE and on both these flights there were zero announcements from the cockpit; I recall discussing this with my wife who was seated next to me, so I am not dreaming this up.

    Having said that I think this situation was due to a combination of factors mentioned in earlier posts: RJ cockpit crew (virtually all former Jordanian Air Force pilots) are very arrogant and passengers are insignificant in their eyes; they were too nervous and clueless about what to do, to even alert ATC about the weather, let alone imagine a need to soothe passengers; their command of English was perhaps inadequate to make a non-scripted announcement.

    I have flown RJ regional flights quite a few times (always in J) and can find nothing to recommend them – crews and catering are indifferent, the lounge in AMM is on par with UA’s RCCs and punctuality is poor.

    Frequent flyers are often faced with this dilemma – keen to visit out of the way places and you often fave to fly questionable carriers, keen to avoid crappy service on UA to Asia and you go on planes flown by questionable TG/KE pilots!

  52. Thanks for sharing. This sounds horrifying and only once have I experienced a severe flight. It was on a (10 min) approach into KPHL on a Delta MD-88. There was hail, along with windshear, and considerable rolling, and so much rain I could no see the end of the wing. But it only lasted for a 10ish minutes and upon landing the pilots were very professional. But I was really scared, your story sounds 100 times worse.

    Maybe the pilots felt their voice would show their fear and be less reassuring to the passengers, and the sterile cockpit mention up above could be spot on. I can also remember my flight instructor saying “fly the plane, that’s all that matters”. Upon landing there is no excuse not to address the passengers.

    Final thought: maybe the cockpit PA was broken and the thought they were transmitting reassuring words through the entire ordeal 😉

  53. Glad to know you were alright after this ordeal, Lucky.
    An interesting thing about diversions from Hong Kong. In your situation, say the flight were to diverted to any airports in Mainland China (eg CAN/SZX) it would mean many passengers would have no visas for visiting there, including HK citizens for that matter, since they’d need a China-issued ID card (“Home Return Permit). Trust me, that’d be a lot of trouble coming from the Chinese authorities.
    Besides, CAN was even more hectic than HK today, where there were delays for 100+ flights.
    Still, if a flight were to be diverted, it’d probably going to TPE or MNL, but I doubt the pilots would give the slightest of damn to do that.

  54. Glad to hear you and everyone are okay Ben.

    As LauraPDX mentioned were having our first warm and sunny weekend here in the PNW and I’m sure once you see it you may consider sitting still for a few days. I constantly enjoy the thought of travel and travel itself, but when you see the weather like this, clear skies, 70 degrees with a breeze, no humidity and beautiful surroundings in your “backyard”, it makes me wonder why I’d want to be anywhere else.

    I hope you have a safe and uneventful return home.

  55. Sounds like a tough ride. Glad you made it safely.

    From reading other posts, it sounds like not dissimilar behavior has happened on UA/CO flights, too. I’ve seen FAs cry in fear on less rough routes than what this sounds like.

    I wonder what help the FA was giving in the cockpit?

    While you clearly weren’t pleased with the experience, before considering the carrier to be unsafe, readers should be mindful that RJ hasn’t had a fatal accident since 1979, and their last accident involving pilot error was in 1975.

    http://www.airdisaster.com/cgi-bin/airline_detail.cgi?airline=Alia+Royal+Jordanian+Airlines

    @Wouter: 🙂

  56. Lucky: We landed in Hong Kong on Saturday at 5:27 pm (Swiss from Zurich) – a bit before you, I think. The inflight display showed that we would be getting in at about 5 pm and then, like you, we went into a holding pattern over the sea. But we were kept at a reasonable height (about 12,000 ft) for most of that time. We only started to feel the real effects of the weather when we reduced altitude to land.

    Of course, being Swiss, we did get information from the Captain – perhaps a bit more formal than some airlines in the US but at least he did tell us what was going on.

    Incidentally, we were in Business – great seats and food. Thanks to USAirways for the 90,000 reward from Washington, which included a stop in London. And thanks to Hilton for encouraging us to burn our points at the Conrad.

  57. “It’s this kind of “machismo” that leaves little question about why the Middle East has been the land of tit-for-tat justice for millennia.”

    What an utterly stupid thing to say.

  58. +1 on the knee jerk reaction here,obviously it was a terrifying chain of events and very dramatic experience but my guess for the non announcement by the pilot could be that he was pretty shaken too and not in a good mental shape to say anything ….near death experiences can mess up the human emotions/judgement of best pilots big time .
    Any reaction or observation from the Air Marshal on board ?

  59. Great post Ben. Thanks for sharing and glad to hear the flight ended well. Just a comment about some of the other comments- IMHO this is what blogging does best, a real experience in (close to) real time expressed to your community with the opportunity for discussion and follow up. Keep on doing what you do!

  60. The conclusion to the cause of the AF crash over Brazilian waters that killed all pax aboard a couple years ago was pilot error.
    Western airlines are not exempt from human error, so to blame this on 2nd or 3rd world standards is plain wrong imo.

  61. Sorry to hear about your bad experience but glad you’re okay. Things like this make you put everything in perspective. On a selfish note, I would have missed your great blog and advice. Here’s to never having to go through anything like that in your next 10 millions miles.

  62. Lucky, so thankful that you’re safe! I once had a similar experience on a Thai flight, but the pilot kept us informed.

    It was scary though, lots of crying and praying from the passengers. The older purser on the flight said it was the worst she had ever experienced.

    I agree with you that you really can’t discount pilot communication. If the Thai pilot on our flight hadn’t communicated what was going on I probably would have been extremely upset!

  63. Lucky, so thankful that you’re safe! I once had a similar experience on a Thai flight, but the pilot kept us informed.

    It was scary though, lots of crying and praying from the passengers. The older purser on the flight said it was the worst she had ever experienced.

    I agree with you that you really can’t discount pilot communication. If the Thai pilot on our flight hadn’t communicated what was going on I probably would have been extremely upset!

  64. Lucky, so glad you’re ok! Sounded awful. And speaking (writing) as a mother….you should make sure your family knows where you are 😉 safe travels!!!

  65. Wow indeed…Happy you are safe!
    Bet you’re gonna need to send those pj’s to the cleaners! 😉

  66. What kind of Captain accepts ATC instructions to hold in the middle of a Thunder/Lightning storm? My suggestion is to fly Cathay Pacific when you have a choice.

  67. Sorry Ben, let’s be clear and say that you are not a private pilot as you have not passed the practical test and are still a student.

  68. Oh and to all the posters here that think this has something to do with ATC – it doesn’t in the slightest. That plane had onboard RADAR, they knew exactly where the storms where, and they could have chosen to go anywhere else regardless of what ATC wanted them to do.

    The ultimate responsibility if always with the pilots. It even says so in the regs.

    Besides that, I think it’s premature to blame the pilots without complete information. Nobody here, including Ben, has any idea what really happened to put the plane in this situation. There are lots of ways for a plane to end up in a thunderstorm (and it’s very unlikely the pilots did this knowingly) that are not the fault of any particular person. It’s rare, but it does happen.

    I’m unimpressed with this post. Even as a student pilot, who hasn’t actually gotten their wings after starting in 2006, you should know better than to make conclusions about these kinds of situations without knowing all the facts. That’s one of the #1 problems with the public’s imagination of aircraft accidents. It’s never simple.

  69. As another ACI viewer, would you rather have something more along the lines of — “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

  70. Glad that you made it through safely, what a terrible experience! Communication is always valued, and if it had been at all possible for the pilot/co-pilot to calm passengers fears, he should have done so. Lucky, I appreciate the report you made and don’t consider it ‘knee-jerked’ at all. Just very real.

    And @Angry…you’re an ass.

  71. For everyone who claims Lucky is overplaying this, remember that one of the flight attendants said it was his worst flight ever. And this from someone who flys constantly. Add in the FA in tears. Who said the pilot was so shaken up by this he was retiring immediately ! It was so scary the FA, along with most of the passengers, is in tears. And the pilot is frightened into retirement. And Lucky is supposedly being over-dramatic?

    As per Nigel’s comment, this was totally unnecessary. They knew 30 minutes out that things were going to be rough at low altitude, which is why Lucky was ordered to put away the laptop. Even if ATC was too busy handling all the delayed flights to figure out the situation on their own, the pilots should have made it clear to ATC that the situation was untenable and holding above the storm was required.

    The really scary part for me is that the pilots were so busy vomiting while on their knees praying that the FA had to land the plane. And with ATC giving her step by step directions on how to do that, of course she didn’t have time to make an announcement. No wonder she was so shaken up….

    I hope that last paragraph is purely imaginary. But then again, I’m not completely sure.

  72. ATC is not to blame. The Captain, Pilot in Command, makes the final decision as it relates to the operation of the aircraft. I just find it hard to believe that the Captain would agree to hold in weather conditions described by Lucky for 30 to 45 minutes.

  73. Told ya so. Our flight with RJ on the same route last year was without doubt one of the worst that I ever had. I have never felt so unsafe on an airline and will never set foot on one of their planes again.

  74. I can tell from your story that it was a flight from hell.

    That day Hong Kong had a very serious Thunder storm. Several Cathay Pacific’s flights were diverted to Guangzhou. I wonder why your pilots did not do the same.

  75. It can even happen in the US. I was on a TWA flight STL-OKC where the pilot elected to fly through a tornadic thunderstorm. How do I know? I’m a wxguy and was going to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, where the next day I looked at the data. I had spoken to the captain during boarding, I mentioned to him what I know was between STL and OKC, and he said, “Heck, I can fly through anything!” He ended up with egg on his face, since we diverted to AMA where TW had no base, so he had to fill ‘er up at an FBO with his own credit card.

    Another good reason to fly UA with its ATC on Channel 9 – when it’s on, it at least keeps you informed.

  76. CJ makes good points above.

    I’m another private pilot. To me, I can imagine the following factors combining to produce this result:

    1. Low-fuel situations, on your flight (so reluctance to climb to better weather, and reluctance to divert) and on other flights (resulting in a longer hold). The altitude you were given initially may have been OK for a short hold, but other aircraft may have needed priority (again, updating their requests when fuel got low), so your hold may have just been amended multiple times and got longer and longer. When the weather goes down across a wide area and lots of flights are inbound, stuff like that can happen.
    2. Foreign ATC and foreign cockpit crews, with different cultural orientation (don’t push back, follow orders from corporate/the bureaucracy). For financial reasons, flights go out with minimal fuel reserves these days – that can compound all of the above.
    3. I doubt the flight attendant was up front working the radios or the rudder pedals, or performing other flight duties. More likely she just happened to be there, or the jump seat there was the only/closest one available, when things got hairy and everybody needed to strap in. Maybe she would have been better off back in one of the crew stations where she didn’t have to see the view out the front with the wild all lit up.
    4. Yeah, one of the crew members could have made an announcement. As others pointed out above, during the decent, the flight crew had their hands full and probably had no ability (sterile cockpit) to make an announcement. Flight attendants may not have been able to make an announcement either during the worst of it.

    But honestly, what useful info do you think they would have been able to communicate to you? “Hey, in case you haven’t noticed, the weather’s pretty nasty. Sorry, we don’t control the weather. Keep your seat belts on and stay in your seats – you’re not stupid enough to go take a pee now anyway, so hang on.”

    After landing, OK, maybe they could have acknowledged that it was a rough ride, but everyone already knew that. They’re trained to follow a script. The FA came on and read his script for that part of the flight – he considers that did his job.

    I can appreciate that you felt it was a rough flight. I think it’s not unreasonable to question some of the “soft product” that the cockpit crew provided. I wasn’t on the flight, but your account sounds like it’s got just a little bit more “drama” that might be warranted.

    That said, I like turbulence. 99% of airplane passengers freak out at the slightest burble or bump. Glad you’re OK, but I suspect this was not quite the near-death experience that you’re flogging here.

  77. Oh, and yes, I *have* passed all my flight tests (and have a fat logbook) with many hours and many years of stick time – apparently Lucky is a *student* pilot (his instructor chimes in above to make the correction).

    Nothing wrong with that, good for you, nothing but best wishes here to for getting your ticket. All pilots – including the guys driving your RJ flight – were students once. However, given your newness to the game of actually operating the controls of an aircraft, you might want to avoid being quite so quick to second-guess the seasoned professionals up front, and save the “I’m a pilot, too!” schtick until after you’ve successfully passed your checkride, Ben. It would enhance your credibility, rather than lend credence to those who suspect you’re inclined towards the dramatic.

    Bloggers with an inflated sense of self-importance and a readiness to stretch the truth to serve their own purposes? Who could have imagined it!

  78. You need to repeatedly fly in and out of Denver over the front range in those Great Lakes Beechcraft 1900 puddle jumpers.

    Small plane – close enough to cockpit to hear wind shear warnings repeatedly going off while being thrown into the aisle and remembering the pilot looked 16 when you boarded.

  79. Ben, you were truly lucky today. I have read your blog for years and never comment, but I agree with CJ, there was a lot going on in the cockpit. That does not excuse the lack of announcements, though, once the flight was over. As seasoned a flyer as you are, if you felt this way, think of how others on board the flight felt. Not only do I appreciate your honesty, I think you write what we all think and sometimes lack the courage to say.

    As to letting your family know your itinerary, have you tried Google Drive? You can share documents there with them, update I. Real time as your plans change, and they can always access your itinerary. You can share your calendar with Gmail, which requires little effort on their part to view. My fiancé and I use those two, and it helps to link your Gmail to Tripit, as well.

    This might be a good time to review your life insurance and will. Safe travels!

  80. Ben, thank you for this post. It makes you realize how precious life is and to not take things for granted. Immediately after reading, I have decided to let my parents know each time I am flying. Glad you’re safe and sound.

  81. Wow, scary! A fews ago I recommended flying PIA (Pakistan International), but perhaps I’d think twice about it. I know most of their pilots are non-Pakistani, & probably foreign trained, but while reading this post, I was reminded of a PIA flight I was on years ago. I remember sitting in the plane & looking at my watch thinking this flight should have landed an hour ago. When we finally landed, the pilot announced that we had landed in a completely different city, over 300 miles north of our ticketed destination due to bad weather. There was no mention to passengers about being diverted until we landed. To make matters worse, the airline said passengers were on their own to get back to our ticketed destination. Not a scary situation, but we were pissed at how we weren’t told & then ended up 300 miles north with no help on how to get back!

  82. This made me think of walking down a road south of Dallas in 1968 where a Braniff jet had crashed in similar circumstances that Lucky describes:
    Investigation revealed that the accident was caused by the captain’s decision to penetrate an area of heavy weather followed by a structural over-stress and failure of the airframe while attempting recovery from loss of control during a steep 180 degree turn executed in an attempt to escape the weather.
    I have believe this story drives the point home that while a new or different airline might be exciting that using the more experienced carriers and their pilots could mean the difference in life or death……..
    Thanks for the post and now you need to add a 2 after Lucky……..

  83. Thanks for the post. I cannot believe some commenters have the nerve to criticize you, especially “Scott” for calling you “selfish.” Selfish? That is absolutely ridiculous.

    You are certainly allowed to write about your experience and can expect a comment from the captain or crew.

  84. Ben, Your not crazy. It must be a Royal Jordanian issue of unprofessional pilots cause they never said anything on my flight either and there were scared passengers.

  85. dude, why the hell were you flying Royal Jordanian? I hope this makes you and Gary think twice when you are recommending folks fly Saudi and the like just because they have good availability.

    But to be fair, reminds me of the Alaska flight that crashed off the west coast back in 2000. Pilot had ample opportunity to divert long before, but listened to the stupid operations people who wanted him to land in SFO to stay on schedule.

  86. Ben, not to defend the pilots but if the FA was crying and she was in the cockpit I can assure they had 150% of their attention on preventing a stall, or damage to the aircraft, in other words, saving their own lives as well as yours. As far as service, I would never fly Air India, Saudia, RJ or LOT!

    Great that you will learn from this experience and keep your love ones informed. While this is a glamorous job you have, remember that it is not all caviar and champers, and you will run into this type of situations. I am so glad you are safe and will recover from this as a better traveler.

    PS I would skip that 787 like the plague. That plane is not safe, at least for now.

  87. Bottom line – the aircraft was not likely to have been in much danger. The pilots did their job by landing it safely. Any speculation as to why they may have accepted whatever clearances they did is just that, speculation.

    That said, the pilots are commercial pilots. Command of a passenger jetliner comes with multiple responsibilities, one of which is the well-being of your passengers. That doesn’t mean just delivering them alive to their destination. It means making sure that their journey is operationally uneventful. Sometimes that means you need to make a reassuring announcement when the situation demands. For whatever reason, they failed to do so. As a result, their passengers felt endangered (whether they actually were in danger or not is irrelevant, when it comes to something like this the perception is everything). Therein lies the problem.

    I’ve been involved with a handful of genuine emergencies over the years and have had the responsibility of debriefing crew involved with these. Almost universally, the pilots that handled the emergency in a textbook manner were also able to communicate effectively with their passengers (and cabin crew). Lack of communications tends to imply unfamiliarity/uncertainty/disconcertment with the situation and increases the perception of danger. Often, it is indicative of poor CRM and a poor SMS. My experience of working with former RJ crews bears this out. As for the cabin crew’s reaction, it is not indicative of anything other than their temperament.

    PS. I agree with the Google Calendar suggestions. My mother stalks my calendar obsessively, but she always knows my flight schedule as a result. I also have Google Latitude installed on my mobile, so she can track me via GPS anywhere in the world. Between those, she knows enough to reassure herself of my well being.

  88. One thing i need to add, Airbus do not handle as well as boeing aircraft when flying without automatic pilot in this type of situations. ( see AF447). The problem is the flight envelope and the lack of feedback that the side sick is unable to provide. The computer will prevent the pilot ( during normal law) from making swift changes. Only during alternate law is this allowed. Boeings concept ( even on 777 fly by wire ) is to provide real time conditions and resistance so that the pilot is in tune with the airline capabilities.

  89. That is some scary stuff… I too dislike when there is very little communication from pilots when something isn’t going right. It’s a common courtesy at least, and an obligation in my mind. Glad you made it safe.

  90. I’ve flown Royal Jordanian a handful of times when i was younger and all the flights were hell. We had to fly them from NY to Amman and I nearly sh*t my pants every time.

  91. What a harrowing read. Glad you made it through, if mighty shaken.

    Another dramatic flight I’ve heard about was an Australian friend of mine who travels a lot. He said he was on a Biman Bangladesh flight when one of the jet turbines blew out. He said, “I could see the flames and smoke on the wing–because it was next to my window!”

    The flight attendants didn’t do anything to calm the passengers. They just handed out free alcohol to everyone. He said he tried to get drunk, but no matter how much whiskey he pounded down, the sheer overwhelming terror gave him bulletproof sobriety.

    Eventually the plane landed, and the landing gear broke off on touchdown. By that point, he said he was convinced he was not going to make it. Luckily, he survived.

    Take care and enjoy Hong Kong. At least you’re in one of your favorite cities, so indulge yourself to the fullest. You deserve it after that ordeal.

  92. Ok, so you got scared by a little turbulence. We’ve all been there. Ok, now please post the trip report.

    Thanks.

  93. You flew an Arab airline and the pilot, who I assume was well-trained, was too macho to deal with this and even possibly admit that there was a problem. Or that he was scared.

    And when it was over, there was no chance in the world that he was about to apologize for what you had gone through. It was much more important for him to save face.

    Rant over. RJ – how many other top airlines are you looking forward to flying?

  94. @ Mike Smith you win the award for biggest clown in the comment section. Sit back and enjoy it, you earned it!

    “Oh and to all the posters here that think this has something to do with ATC – it doesn’t in the slightest. That plane had onboard RADAR, they knew exactly where the storms where, and they could have chosen to go anywhere else regardless of what ATC wanted them to do.”

    Then you go on to make this statement! LOL!

    “Besides that, I think it’s premature to blame the pilots without complete information. Nobody here, including Ben, has any idea what really happened to put the plane in this situation.”

  95. Wow! Funny enough I had one of the worst flights of my life (where I was sure we were going to crash) from HKG-BKK. We hit a patch of turbulence, hail & lightening on our climb out from HKG and it lasted only about 5-10 mins or so, though it seemed like a lifetime. I was on CX and the pilot did come on to make several announcements. He sounded calm, cool and collected and that certainly did help calm us down. Glad that you’re ok and you’ve now ticked RJ off you list.

  96. Lucky,
    I can’t understand what the FA was ever doing in the cockpit for that time. Must have been some serious (end of flying) quality time with pilot.
    Also HKG today is better than August/September 1993. My father was on a SQ 747 jet from SFO to HKG to SIN when he was stuck in the craft for 12 hrs before takeoff due to a cyclone. The captain told them it was too risky to deplane, the plane wobbled near the runway and they were told that the previous craft that had taken off had an “unfortunate event”
    Anyway I found no mention of crashes in HKG in the papers (though no internet then). I think the captain did not want to go back and deplane them and risk delaying his time. This was in the old airport in the middle of the city and I can understand his reluctance to take off in a storm, but I think the pax were lied to just to keep them quiet (and praying for their lives).
    I have been in the midwest in CRJs on DL from Iowa to MN and the summer weather is terrible when you are in a 50 seater and flying up and down 50 ft at a time, worse than most roller coasters.
    The real test is not in communicating, but in arriving safely. I would rather have a captain who can do it all, but if not, I would settle for one who lands me safely on the ground c/w one who tells me we are going down badly.

  97. RJ Brown (92,above) is referring to Braniff Flight 352. It was actually a Lockheed Electra II (indicating it had been modified after some of its sister ships had been falling apart in the air). The pilot ignored advice of ATC and observations by his first officer. Even told First officer to not talk too much to ATC because they (ATC) were just trying to get them to admit they had made a mistake! Shortly after that, while in a 90+ degree bank (!) with a 40 degree pitch down(!), the pilot pulled 4.3 g. trying to recover. Structural failure. I guess he showed that ATC guy a thing or two and showed his FO who was the boss. At the end of the day, it IS the pilot in command who makes the decisions.

    I have no idea what was going on in the cockpit of your RJ flight, but many of us learned that old adage,”An airplane flies because of Bernoulli, not Marconi. Don’t pick up your microphone and drop your airplane”. But for NO ONE to say ANYTHING is pretty bad. Elephant? What elephant?

    P.S. – Don’t forget the wine list in your trip report! (Insert smiley thing here).

  98. That sounds awful, truly awful. I can’t say I have ever been in a situation that causes me to relate, fortunately. I definitely have no interest in flying RJ now. I am glad you are okay.

  99. I was on UA nonstop from IAD to SFO in the past year when it suddenly fell down from 30000 to 10000 ft; the plane came back to IAD. I thought it was all over, so I know what you describe. Cheers, the worst is over and the rest of the good life is yet to come.

  100. Totally and complete unprofessional! I refer of course to the lack of pictures of Diet Coke and mixed nuts in this post. 😉 Just kidding, of course. Glad to see you’re okay and hopefully you’ve been able to calm down a bit. I’m imaging you may have had a stronger drink in the Cathy Pacific lounge! I hope this doesn’t hurt your love of travel. Keep flying!

  101. Sorry AME,
    I’m not only a frequent flyer but have been licensed as a commercial pilot for 34 years, since I was 19, and have been an advanced/instrument instructor since that time. I don’t care how the aircraft is engineered. It has structural limits based on G-forces.
    While I have not instructed in years, I do maintain my commercial license and have several comments:
    1) AME: No aircraft is designed to fly through thunderstorms. I don’t care what size the ship is, it is a tiny sailboat compared to the energy of a thunderstorm. Big planes can and do get ripped apart by excessive stresses. The reason it doesn’t happen more often is most pilots will not fly into the teeth of a thunderstorm…or anywhere near it. I’ve encountered hail 5 miles OUTSIDE of a thunderstorm.
    2) All these aircraft have weather radar, and all of the pilots would be hearing pilot reports.
    It is unconscionable for a pilot to accept a holding pattern in a thunderstorm.
    But step back a minute:
    3) It’s also unconscionable the pilot let himself get into this situation. A storm lasting as long and that was as intense as what was described can clearly be seen on airborne weather radar and if you know how to read radar returns properly you can pretty much guess the lack of weather echo returns to the radar beyond an intense area of rain is due to the fact the storm is fully attenuating the signal and is MORE intense. Areas of strong return don’t just go to zero return.
    This is a flight that should have been terminated somewhere along the route. Every IFR (instrument flight rules flight plan) has a plan B and a plan C, so to speak, by maintaining enough fuel to fly to an alternate landing site.
    I suspect that in choosing to circle, the pilot “burned through” his alternatives. If there were no satisfactory alternatives due to a long line of thunderstorms, the airplane should have diverted well before reaching HKK. It sounds to me like the pilot did everything possible to get to HKK and, slowly foreclosed other options along the route.

    If you are holding at a low altitude you are burning through your alternatives rather quickly.
    The aircraft left BKK fully knowing the potential for large thunderstorms. This is determined by looking at convective charts, even going back to what’s called a Lifted Index — I am not sure was available here but something similar was definitely available that measures–or estimates–the temperature lapse rate from the surface upward. That, combined with the well-known high humidity of the area, left open the possibility of large storms.
    Thunderstorms don’t come “from out of nowhere,” but they can form rather fast in the right climate.
    I have been on top of a cumulus cloud and been forced upward at a rate of climb beyond the upper limits of an Instantaneous Vertical Speed Indicator (which measures the rate of climb of the aircraft in feet per minute).
    Of course, i grew up in an area of the States where large thunderstorms with tops to 65,000 feet were routinely forecast, so i have had a lot of experience between plain old rain and thunderstorms.

    i would not necessarily avoid the airline in the future, but I would never get on that particularly aircraft until it underwent thorough testing , which is very expensive and I am sure has been ignored. that airplane is still out there flying around with possible structural damage that may one day result in a critical failure.
    RJ is no means the only airline that is guilty of things like this. I have had mistakes (let’s call them errors in judgment) made by pilots on United and even Southwest in years past. In the US we have ARS , and I am not sure they have it in other countries. A pilot can self-report and avoid enforcement action unless he/she has committed a crime. It’s the Aviation safety reporting System run by NASA for decades.

    http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/overview/immunity.html

  102. I am glad you are okay Ben. As an x B727 , B727 and L1011 Captain, i went through a similar situation once over Oslo Norway. The reasons the pilot did what he did could be many, I had many Jordanian pilots go to school with me in Texas and here is a good one out of too many–
    Tower- Aircraft calling Meacham please identify yourself-Meacham Field airport is in FT Worth TX and was very popular for international pilots seeking training in USA-
    Pilot- this is Moh– Nawaf- Atti– from Amman Jordan.(instead of giving his aircraft N # eg. Cessna 432EA
    Tower- Do YOU have info HOTEL???( info transmitted to pilots on a certain airport freq. giving weather conditions, wind direction , runway in use etc)
    Pilot- No I am staying with friends. LOL
    This is a real story, I was up in the air doing my instrument rating check with the FAA examiner and i heard the full conversation, this guy went to the same school i went to , Hallmark Aviation Academy , and he busted the instrument check ride 4 times and landed downwind at a farm airport and crashed into the cow barn and damaged the aircraft , and then went on to fly for RJA and 5 years later he was a Captain . That is why ill never fly as a passenger on any 3rd world airline, i also avoid all Middle East , Asian , African ,and most Cental and South American carriers except LAN. I mostly fly British Airways, and glad to pay the hefty surcharges, they have the best trained pilots , much harder to be licensed in the UK than the US , Lufthansa , Austrian, Swiss , KLM are also on the safe side.

  103. Pilot:
    Not wanting to turn this thread into a war story about pilot training but:

    That’s hilarious and brings back memories of training Nigerian pilots, including one who didn’t solo until he had 65 hours, then landed too far down a 6000 foot runway and ran into a ditch. Lucky, just a small cut.
    So ,maybe I WOULD avoid Royal Jordanian altogether. There’s nothing Royal about burying the dead.
    I have one for you:
    Hobby Tower: Cessna niner-niner -two-four Quebec, taxi into position and hold , runway 31 left, awaiting departure of the Southwest jet on a crossing runway.
    Pilot: No response, he taxis onto the runway and starts taking off. Controller luckily sees this, waits till the wheels lift off the ground, and says firmly, “Cessna 24 quebec you were NOT cleared for takeoff!”
    Pilot: Oh, wow

  104. @ traderprofit

    I don’t disagree with most of what you say, excellent points. I guess all I was saying (perhaps I could have explained it better), was that, given the incomplete info we have, it is difficult to make a complete assessment one way or the other. And, like I said, even if an aircraft is designed to XYZ structural limits, that does not mean that the limit should be intentionally tested by someone operating the aircraft in real world conditions, certainly the pilot might have had other alternatives like you outlined, which I would strongly agree with…

    Excellent point as well that this particular aircraft may have sustained damage and needs a thorough inspection at a minimum, which I agree as well might not even occur unfortunately…

    That being said, I guess my other point was that the proprietary damping/vibration/noise reduction materials utilized in the aircraft ARE designed to withstand a fair amount of stress (but not an infinite amount of course, or that encountered during a strong thunderstormm), and they are also designed to be able to withstand being struck by lightning though. A relative of mine was on a flight once that was was struck by lightning THREE times before being able to divert to an alternate airport, and landed safely. Just because the aircraft design can withstand being struck by “some” lightning/hail though, does not ever mean that it is designed to be intentionally flown through those conditions on a regular basis, indeed, at the end of the day, it is purely “designed” to operate for years and years, but only under normal operating conditions….

    And again, that does not mean that pilots shouldn’t take every precaution necessary to avoid flying into lightning and thunderstorms in the first place like you said, as extreme conditions can indeed lead to fatal crashes as we all know. But, ultimately, without knowing the exact, specific environmental conditions and vibration levels encountered during the flight, IMHO it is impossible to tell just how close the aircraft might have been stressed against its design limits or just how close it was to crashing…

  105. Saying you will never fly an airline again because of the actions of one crew isn’t really fair. Its like saying “I’ll never drive a Honda again because of the actions of one employee at one dealership”. Now, never flying them again because they don’t serve booze (a company policy, not an individual employee’s action), THAT is a good reason..

  106. Fun stuff!!! Sean M (B747… yah?) knows of what he speaks. Thanks for chiming in.

    A few points for the student pilot:

    Going “up” in a thunderstorm, or, well, any weather is not necessarily a good idea. It ‘could’ be worse actually, convectively worse, etc. In these huge SE Asia storm systems I’m quite sure the tops (70K?) are well above the service limits of modern commercial aircraft. So, no going up just for the sake of going up, ok?

    The FA in the cockpit. Who knows>? Is it company policy? Pilot’s girlfriend? 🙂 I don’t see an issue with anticipating a tough situation and having an extra set of hands to do things such as find NATOPS manuals, hold flashlights, etc. You get my drift.

    Third, and this is just for everyone’s mental wellbeing, as far as I know, the laws of physics are not changed by how hard one squeezes the armrests in an aircraft. Peace.

  107. One of the reasons I read your blog is because you are such a credible reporter. I have only found the truth in whatever I’ve read here. So with that in mind I have to say that anyone who commented with any implication that you were over reacting or whining should really f@*! off. Your story scared me and I’m not afraid to fly.

  108. Great storytelling cause I felt like I was sitting in that plane! Horrifying. Glad everything turned out okay though.

  109. Lucky, I am a nervous flyer to begin with (despite the fact that I fly about 200K miles a year). Not sure if I am going to be able to sleep tonight… leaving for ATH in the afternoon…Hope to see you at one of the DOs – I guest blog on Frugal Travel Guy.com

  110. I’ve truly enjoyed reading all of these posts.

    I know this was a fucked up situation for the poster, but this is a great POV for anyone who works on the other side of the flight.

    I have been flying miitary for the last 10 years and have seen my fare share of bad flight plans, shitty planing and bad weather, but no one in the back of my flights has ever paid for a flight.

    I start training on the commercial side in two weeks and hope to take anything ideas and thoughs from this side I can to the front of the plane.

  111. Sean M

    What exactly is your background?

    Are you a comerical pilot for a major airline, a regional airline or a foreign airline?

    You talk as if you are a commerical pilot, but you also leave out a lot of details on your explanation of CRM, and other operating details.

  112. My favorite comment ever on these blogs……
    Do you have info HOTEL?
    No, I’m staying with friends………

    You see the Royal Jordanians have figured out the comp night better than we could ever imagine………….

    Ben: Don’t let me down here you have to get something free out of this experience………

  113. Glad to read you’re safe! Those are good points to always let your family know about your flight plans. I’ll admit that after takeoff, my life literally depends on the weather and pilots of the flight.
    That does sound like the flight from hell but am glad you survived to tell about it. Be well!

  114. Just a question: at what point while flying the heavy aircraft through a dicey situation where they actually had a lot of things going on at once did you expect the pilots to casually check in with the cabin?

  115. Aviate, navigate, communicate. No way of knowing what was going on up front. It likely was a serious experience for the pilots too. I wouldn’t get upset about no one announcing, “Hey we’re flying through a storm but planes are designed for this so we won’t crash.” All things considered, I’d be satisfied that they were competent at the flying part of their job. Glad to hear you survived the experience.

  116. @AME I think we are on the same page.
    Getting hit by lightning happens all the time. Not as big a deal as severe or extreme turbulence

  117. Would you rather the pilots placated you for 30 seconds and take their attention away from what they were going through? Chances are they were 100% committed to getting through the situation, which they did. Getting everyone on their ground safely is their number one priority. Anything that would lessen the chances of that happening (making an announcement taking their attention away) would lower that chance.

    Pilots got you there safe. That’s what really counts.

    Come on Lucky, I thought you were better than this.

    And I didn’t know you were a commercial pilot. Who do you fly for?

  118. You could have gotten up and “Hey folks let’s all remember those pilots went to the same training academy that the 9/11 hijackers went to and they all were pretty good at flying exactly as the flight plan ordered……..they’ll be no food service or further announcements and I am unsure if texting will get through………

  119. Many years ago, I was on a UA SFO-NRT flight that was struck by lightning an hour out of Tokyo. The captain immediately told everyone what had happened, and reassured us that the plane was built to handle it. The flight was normal otherwise – not even remotely as bad as your experience. Thank heavens you are safe.

    Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Korean Airlines cultural issues at some length (during the late 1990’s cultural issues caused their accident rate to be unacceptably high).

    http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2008/12/04/malcolm-gladwell-on-culture-cockpit-communication-and-plane-crashes/

  120. “Hey folks let’s all remember those pilots went to the same training academy that the 9/11 hijackers went to”

    What an ignorant, stupid, bigoted thing to say.

  121. I too am glad that you’re safe.

    Despite the poor hard products and services on US carriers, I love how US pilots would come on the PA in a confident and soothing voice to assure the passengers during turbulence. I once took a last flight out before the airport shutdown for a storm, and experienced my worst turbulence for a full two hours. The pilot came on and apologized as there just wasn’t any better air to divert to. Despite sounding weary, I think that calmed the passengers.

    Your pilots may have had their hands full or for whatever reason that forced the flight to endure such a harsh beating… it brought to mind a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, where culture played a role in limited communication and caused some of the terrible fatal crashes. Certainly much of this have been eliminated with better training these days.

  122. It’s hard to say what went on in the cockpit but I’m glad your ok. It does pay to make sure your right with family and God before each flight. It can’t hurt.

  123. “when the landing gear was retracted and runway in sight I literally started crying.”

    Just to be a PITA I would like to say that I would be crying too if the pilot retracted the landing gear on final approach.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retract

    You are alive to post about it and there were not reports of the runway being covered in foam so I am guessing that the landing gear was extended, not retracted 😀

    /PITA_mode

  124. Do you need an ATP license to know that flying an Airbus A330 at a low
    Altitude, in a holding pattern, in a thunderstorm for 30-45 minutes is a bad idea? Maybe the RJ flight crew needs some refresher training.

  125. Holy crap (both re: the post and the comment thread). I just want to give you a virtual man-hug right now.

  126. I am an American Captain flying in SE Asia. I am nearing the end of my contract and will be returning to the USA soon. I can tell you from experience HKG ATC leaves a lot to be desired.

    On a good VFR sunny day they screw up. Now add in Thunderstorms and A/C declaring fuel emergency’s like crazy, well you really don’t want to know how bad it is. If you did I think most of you would stop flying into HKG!

  127. No not at all wwk5d…..just pointing out simple fact of where RJ gets some of its’ pilots and how that training “fact” might give one pause before booking one of their flights………

  128. We were hit by lightening on LH once in 2005 or 2006. All lights went out for a matter of seconds and the plane fell by what seemed like a considerable amount. There was panic, with one young man jumping out of his seat. The pilot came on immediately to announce the lightening strike and the lack of electricity (we had noticed). He was calm and matter-of-fact and so the moment passed. IMHO, RJ pilots should have behaved in a similar manner.

    Sorry you had to endure that Ben.

  129. “As the cabin door was about to open one of the female flight attendants emerged from the cockpit with her makeup smeared all over her face from crying, and she said she was in the cockpit the entire approach as the pilots “needed her help.” She also passed on that the captain said he was going to retire after that flight” – not much to add – it seems you already gave yourself a sufficient answer…

  130. Wow, it’s so good that you, your fellow passengers and the crew survived this nightmare. It seems really hard to know at this point how to assess the captain’s conduct in the emergency. It was clearly unprofessional to not say anything when the delay first became apparent, but it could well be that once the sh*t hit the fan he was too busy and was maintaining his position in the middle of the storm at the direction of HKG ground control. Similarly, it sounds like he was too freaked out at the end of the flight (as evinced by that reported retirement comment) to make an announcement…though one would hope that a professional pilot would regain his cool quickly under such circumstances.

    None of this is to question your take on the situation. You were there; we weren’t. I’m just raising some questions.

    Even if you might rethink your post a day or week from now, it probably was good for you to vent this trauma. For that reason alone, we all should bear with any possible rush to judgement you might have made re the flight crew. And again, very glad that you made it.

  131. Ben, you have nothing to apologize or feel questionable about. The haters are corporate-whore apologists.

    When the FA came out of the cockpit, did you see inside and see both pilots? “Captain will retire”? Ummm, because he died or had a heart attack, and therefore, the other pilot and the FA really had their hands too full to make an announcement in such extreme conditions? Hmmm…

    I appreciate this post and your grateful sentiment.

  132. A truly terrifying experience for you to be sure, but also a lot of speculation and hyperbole in your post, and among the comments here. As others have stated, one suspects the lack of providing information during and after was a cultural thing and the pilots had a lot going on keeping you from falling out of the sky. Personally, I’d prefer they do that and get you down safely – which they did. take some time to reflect and then write a letter with your concerns to the airline.

  133. Sounds like they should have diverted. Like everyone else, having seen enough Mayday episodes I’m not thankful a pilot got through a situation like that. Almost killing everyone isn’t something I’m particularly thankful for. There have been far too many cases where things didn’t go according to plan and almost everyone was killed.

    Your chances of survival are typically worse at the front of the plane as well.

  134. Hey @John C – they probably do need a refresher course – It’s all ball bearings nowadays…

  135. Wow, so many comments here. Just wanted to echo the “I’m-glad-you’re-ok” sentiment, and that it sounds like it was super scary.

    My mom would FLIP if I didn’t give her my flight itinerary (I think it’s a single-Jewish-mother-with-an-only-child thing).

    I love those air crash investigation shows (which makes me sound like a sociopath). This story reminds me of one show about AA1420, which crashed outside Little Rock.

    As for RJ, I’d be hesitant to fly them again too. Even if the crew was too busy during the flight to reassure the passengers (in which case it was a pretty dire situation), there’s no excuse for not saying something upon touching down!

  136. Wow! I must admit that this was one of the funniest blogs that I have every read! I am so sorry for your horrific experience. But it was funny as hell. Instead of a world traveller (I use to be one, but got bored after living on every continent for at least 1 year), you should be an author. I can write, but you CAN write. Safe travels!
    -Shay

  137. To play devil’s advocate, I believe it is quite possible that the pilots did not have the emotional capacity to make an announcement that was comforting. I suspect hearing a captain that was himself terrified, would escalate the emotional response — both from the passengers — and from the captain acknowledging his fears to himself out loud.

    I am more concerned that the pilots didn’t redirect, or otherwise mitigate the situation. Hopefully they will learn from their situation and be better pilots. Few people have intimate experience with near death, and it’s a powerful but expensive teacher.

  138. This has got to be the longest thread I have ever seen, Just figured I’d add one more.

    The Stew was in the cockpit because she was SCARED TO DEATH and could not be seen in front of passengers. No way she was helping the pilots

  139. Nowhere as bad an experience as this, but on a UA flight into a stormy HKG one time I was very happy to have access to the ATC comms on Ch. 9. Our pilot kept asking for deviations around storm cells, but at one point was told he could no longer deviate as he was adjacent to Chinese airspace!

  140. “just pointing out simple fact of where RJ gets some of its’ pilots and how that training “fact” might give one pause before booking one of their flights………”

    No, it is a stupid thing to say because you are linking them to a bunch of terrorists simply because they are Arab. Again, dumb and racist. Otherwise, you are saying most RJ pilots get their licenses from training schools in South Florida.

  141. We just left HK today on Cathy (thank goodness), but the craziest thing is that yesterday we met a couple from Florida in HK and they were on the same RJ flight as you. They told us all about it and said they realy thought they were going to die! Everything you mentioned is exactly what they told us too. They were so upset that no announcements were ever made. What a small world. No exaggerating on your part, we heard it first hand. Crazy!

  142. Perhaps you should research the origins of RJ training and the origins of 9/11 pilot training and report back to us with the facts so we are not guilty of pilot profiling………..Let you know what you find out…….Take your time……..

  143. Not much of a correlation exists, so there really is nothing to report. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

  144. lucky, I’m glad, you’re ok and sorry you had to go through this !

    I’ll now stop complaining about some minor turbulences and our flight diversion from HKG to Guangzhou with 6 hours waiting in the plane (Ethiopian Airlines; evening of March 28th)!

    We didn’t get much information from the captain either, what made all passengers feel a bit more insecure than necessary. Even some strange theories about the “true” reasons of the airport-closing and the diversion came up amongst pasengers…

    Tomorrow I’ll fly home to Germany on Aeroflot(!), but that has to be my last flight for a while…

  145. Well Ben, I feel blessed to still have a great friend like you. Remember your best flight in your life and the bad experience will be fading away. Thank god you still breathing and as a Singapore ambassador I’m having fun and helping you along to meet your fans out there in the world. Joseph is great!!! And we had a fun filled evening with laughter together. Wish you were here.

    Welcome back alive! Your time is not due yet and keep on surprising us here on your blog. You still have many work and experience you need to share with all of us here. Happy Birthday soon!!!

  146. Good on ya’ for sharing this. RJ is now on my no fly list. I was once on a regional jet that made more cracking noises in turbulence than anything I ever heard. I was afraid the spar was going to crack. We landed. As luck would have it, the same plane was operating my next flight. I took Amtrak the rest of the way.

  147. I had a similar scary experience in July last year (2012) and I felt exactly the same about the unprofessionalism of the staff. RJ is not oneworld worthy…

  148. Ben, I am in Santiago Chile and tonight at my hotel met and had a drink with an American B747 Captain who used to fly for the same airline i flew for, and now flies for a foreign airline , he was flying into Honk Kong on the same day as you, and he said they ran into severe weather , one of the worst he ever encountered, he hates flying into Hong Kong, said it is so congested and ATC is a nightmare.

  149. It’s horrible to feel abandoned by the crew. I think this experience shows how Sa’d it is when the crew had worked so hard to bring the aircraft safely to the ground, yet failed to make the passengers feel they care, when actually they might be! It is Sad and self destructive to their airline and themselves. Glad you’r safe and sound.

  150. My dad tells the story of an Alitalia flight in the 80’s from Boston to Rome that ended after a similar 45 minutes of circling in thunderstorms. The only difference was that upon landing, the BOS AZ station manager who was traveling on board bounded up to the upper deck, ripped open the cockpit door and took a swing at the captain.

    Apparently, the captain’s wife, who was on board because it was the captain’s retirement flight, saw the whole thing, as well.
    One of an endless list of reasons I don’t fly Alitalia.

    Sorry to hear about your trip. The closest I’ve ever come was a similar bad weather landing on Corfu on board the old Olympic. Scary stuff, especially since I knew better.

    Greg

  151. When was this? I didn’t read all the comments to tell but I was in the air going to HKG (landing on March 29th) around the same time. The captain didn’t mention storms but said there were just a few showers and we would be landing in about 15 minutes.

    As we got the cabin ready, it started POURING + there was lightening too. We continued to proceed to the runway. The plane was well below 10,000 feet when we hit a few microbursts and just plummeted. I heard the engines struggling to keep up with the rapid changes in wind direction. The off duty FA next to be started praying while people were screaming in the back. At one point, we looked like we were going to land in the ocean until the pilots finally pulled up and circled around for about an hour before we landed.

    During this time, I was so exhausted and was very annoyed by the people screaming around me. I was awake enough to be aware that we could be crashing onto the tarmac so I counted rows to the closest emergency exit and gave a mean “stare” at those people screaming cause I wanted to sleep.

    Also, like you, we heard nothing about it from the crew the entire time which annoyed me but I hoped it was because they were either traumatized and/or very focused. The crew also turned off Ch 9 so I couldn’t hear anything from the flight deck.

    After deplaning, I had a mini episode @ the HKG UC in my head as I realized I could’ve DIED. Also, I was disturbed at myself because clearly prioritized sleep over immanent death (heh heh heh). Nevertheless, I was clearly uncomfortable for the next few flights after that (takeoff and landings).

  152. Thank you for posting your experience of the flight. Turbulence can be very scary for passengers. I had a similar flight from Wellington to Melbourne, where the flight went through severe turbulence for about 30 minutes. No one said a word the whole time as we were all just too scared. The pilots said nothing during the whole time and I don’t remember them saying anything afterwards either. I have talked to a few pilots after that and they said that even though turbulence makes the passengers scared, it is one of the least risky parts of flying. Most pilots don’t even give a second thought to turbulence. They try to avoid the worst of the weather, but at times that is not possible. That might be case with your flight if the worst of the weather was over HKG itself.

    Also, lightning strikes are serious events and must be reported to the safety authorities and a full check of the plane done after a strike. Looking at Avherald.com, I see no reports of lightning strikes at Hong Kong or on Royal Jordanian during March 2013, so severely doubt that lightning hit your plane.

    The tip about telling family which flights you are taking is a very good one. You never know when things could go wrong and the worst thing would be family not even knowing that you were one a flight that had an incident and finding out days later when they report you missing.

  153. With all due respect, there are a lot of rubbish comments on here from armchair experts. A lack of announcement does not make the pilots unprofessional, as it is honestly quite low on the list of priorities.
    Having not been on the flight I can’t comment, however the perspective of the crew can be quite different from the passengers on board. You make no reference to what aircraft you are training on, for all that we know it could be a Cessna 172.
    There is a lot of superbolous information that lacks any credibility to be totally honest with you. Is RJ unsafe based on that one experience. Most definitely not. RJ has not lost an aircraft since its Alia days (I.e 1979). That is not something to sneeze at…

  154. @with all due respect;

    With all due respect, isn’t “superbolous” similar to “nukeular” , “infastructure,” and “supposably”?

  155. Lightning is hardly a problem for planes these days so long as everything is working. As for the pilots not saying anything how about they were trying to see where they were and flying the plane. Why are people so shitty, you shit your pants because there’s a storm and you expect to be babies by the crew who are busy doing their job, take a Valium and close your eyes

  156. I am a jordanian citizen and what happened on that flight was okay. Don’t be hard on the pilots because they were busy checking that all was good I am a frequent flyer with royal jordanian and would like to that royal jordanian is an extremely safe airline.

  157. Hello All,
    I’m a Captain on the A320 I have spent much of my career flying in the Far East.
    One of the last things priorities worry about when flying in an area of thunder storms would be to make a PA.
    navigating around weather can be very challenging and needs a lot of attention even if a PA was only 30 seconds as you have stated the pilots might not have had the chance to do it.
    you stated that you are a pilot then you must know the duties and responsibilities of the pilot in command, number one is safety and security, passenger comfort and convenience is one of the last thing on that list.

  158. I would think a diversion in that region would be very problematic unless an absolute emergency since many people on that flight wouldn’t have visas for China and you end up with a situation like UA had at DME the other day coming from DEL. Scary stuff though at the end of the day glad you’re alright!

  159. I can assure you we have the best trained and skilled pilots in the area ,do you remember the date of the flight please ..

  160. Hey, nice story. however, despite the mistakes done by the crew, do not judge the airline from one experience.

  161. Royal Jordanian Airlines is very lousy in services. I flew from Bangkok to Misurata via Amman. Upon my arrival at Misurata Airport, I found out that my luggage was mishandled. Then I filed a report at the office at the airport. I didn’t have any spared belongings with me. They couldn’t careless about that. It took me almost a month to get my luggage back after checking with them on every RJ flight to Misurata. I called their Amman’s Head Office, they said they could not help if I could not give them the 10-digits number which I didn’t have on my paper. I even called their Tripoli Office, the guy told me he could not help. I sent them an email through their web site giving all the details of my contact, no answer from Allah. What kind of an airline is that?

  162. I would like to ask you guys if this is the normal practice of all airlines? When the passengers’ luggage was mishandled, it will take them a month to get it back after following up with the airlines on every coming flight?

  163. I’M WARNING EVERYONE AGAINST ROYAL JORDANIAN! IF YOU LOVE YOUR LUGGAGE DON’T FLY WITH THEM, THEY’RE GOING TO LOSE YOUR LUGGAGE!! When I arrived to my destination I waited around two hours for my luggage, only to find out that they’re STILL in Chicago. I informed baggage services they said it’ll take up to two days. Two days later they delivered only ONE OF MY BAGS. Its been a whole week and I’M STILL WAITING!! I keep calling them to ask about my bags and NO ONE EVEN BOTHERS TO ANSWER!! THIS IS RIDICULOUS. NOBODY USE THIS AIRLINE! OTHER THAN LOSING MY LUGGAGE, THE FOOD WAS REPULSIVE.

  164. Thanks for sharing

    I have a few very basic expectations. Chief among these is that Royal Jordanian staff have an intellect that ranges above the common ground squirrel. I can only surmise that Khan and Issam the supervisors at JFK are one of the few true genetic wastes of our time.

    The staff at Royal Jordanian in JFK were apparently hired to provide amusement to myself and other passengers who watch them vainly attempt to understand the concept of “cut and paste” for the hundredth time. They will never understand customer service. Something as incredibly simple as binary still gives them too many options.

    In a world of managerial evolution, the managers at Royal Jordanian are the blue-green algae that everyone else eats and laughs at. Managers like this are a sad proof of the Dilbert principle. Seeing as this situation is unlikely to change without Royal Jordanian management in JFK getting a full frontal lobotomy reversal, I am forced to never fly Royal Jordanian again.

  165. My status on Royal Jordanian is Royal Plus Platinum. I have always flown RJ during my life within the middle east region, Europe and to the U.S. and they have never failed me once in meeting my expectations and even beyond.

    To those who complain about RJ service, I would like to just remind you about the service that you have on any American airline whether its Delta, AA, US airway or others that their fleet is either obsolete planes or were put out of service by other luxurious non-American airlines.

    To those who asked if they have diet coke, yes of course, and I always get served top-shelf alcohol and non-stop top off on any RJ flight, and as far the food its always super and way way way better than the crap or dog food that is served on airlines like US airways or delta or so….

    as far as security and safety, if i am not mistaken, RJ is the only airline that has never been hijacked….

    As far as flight attendants, I would rather have a flight attendant that serves me throughout my flight that is good looking and not 50y.o++ that pulls her/his VSIA machine whenever you call her for a question even if you are not purchasing anything…

    or an airline that still uses flight attendants to demonstrate saftey measure instead of monitors…are we really in 2014?? I almost forgot that when I used US airways last month

    I remember i flew from the U.S once to Russia and I HAD to use U.S airway last year and when we took off from JFK I asked for my Macallan the old flight attendant gave me that look and said literally..”what DAT be??”…I was shocked by the illiteracy of their staff or she even became a flight attendants to deal and serve business people….Oh well…cheap is cheap

  166. I just travelled from royal jordanianand it SUCKED!!! I was praying the whole flight kept goin up nd down nd plane was in horrible condition.. i can understand what you been thru.. never goin to use rj again

  167. I was once on an Air New Zealand 747-400 from London to Hong Kong. As we got close to HK the pilot announced that we might have to divert as HK airport was closed due to bad weather. Apparently other airlines had tried to land but were unsuccessful so they closed it. However, the pilot said they would ‘give it a go’ and they’ll divert if they can’t land on the first attempt.
    The plane was all over the place, just like your story. Over head lockers were opening with contents falling down, people were throwing up and screaming! It seemed we were in cloud the whole time whilst the 747 was thrown around. I was sat in 1K in the nose of the plane and as I looked out the window, I saw the runway coming towards me. Thus meaning, we were coming in completely sideways! At this point, I thought, where is my lifejacket in this seat?!
    I remember reading a Qantas 747 incident years ago as it landed in a typhoon and skidded off the end of the runway.
    The pilots of this ANZ flight managed to slam the plane down and the reverse thrusters pushed water from the runway as far forward as my window! It was THAT wet!
    When we disembarked the ground staff were not there, in fact, the airport was empty. We were the only plane to land during the typhoon.

    I know pilots are very experienced, however, sometimes you have to question if their egos puts our lives at risk from time to time?! I know a few pilots socially and some of them think they’re a bit ‘Godly’ which is a worry :-/

  168. Angry is correct. As terrifying as it was for you, the cockpit crew did the right thing. Their job is to safely fly the plane , and in sometimes trying conditions, not appease the nervous passengers. In this particular instance, and if the experience was as horrible as you say, I would have been terrified if there had been an announcement. Something along the lines of “Brace for impact” is all that comes to mind.

  169. Won’t say much about the post as we are not aware of the actual situation and the plane did get landed safely, which must be applauded. My concern is with some comments, which are really disgusting, to say the least. Using racial slurs, religious bigotry and displaying so-called American exceptional-ism and mocking those who presented a more balanced approach in their response. Wow! It was an amazing read to go through these ‘well-informed’ comments.

  170. OK, so you wanted the pilots in the middle of probably their most critical flight if it was as you describe it, to get their concentration out of it, and make an announcement instead of keeping the focus on to brings your sorry scared ass safe on the ground? Pussy, grow a pair, and know when to complain. How is this Royal Jordanians fault to trash them this like?

  171. i just wanna say to you. you should be thankful coz you still a live , and that’s because of the good professional pilot .how many flight never made it to ground because of lightning strike. i work for the royal Jordanian airline and i was one the team who fix the plain . just to let you know , the sound system was down .and 45% of some instrument wasn’t functioning in the air plain due to the lightning strike .
    so say hallelujah that you still around.

  172. OMG Lucky, I had a similar problem aproaching GRU from CDG. Flying air france 777w on the small front business cabin. It took us 1h30min to land. We were also hit by lightning strike, and was so scared. I actually have always been afraid of flights, though I know it`s very safe and all.

    I already know that its a problem of control and, since i know i have no control over the plane, I go crazy about it. But I still fly a lot since I`m addicted to travelling. I love your Blog, its an everyday addiction. I know it`s been a while so you are feeling right now, and I really hope this feeling lasts forever.

    xx

  173. “I feel confident in saying this guy just didn’t give a crap about the people in the back, and that’s not a trait I like for someone responsible for 200 peoples’ lives.”

    What, and he had a personal death-wish too?

    It’s called “flying the airplane” and it’s what pilots do.

    Seriously. I can’t believe some of the comments here.

  174. Not sure why you are complaining. Would you have posted this email if the weather was not bad? I guess not so you are probably just complaining because the pilot did not say hello. You sound a bit needy to me. If the weather was as bad as you say, maybe the pilot should be commended for getting you safely on the ground. And turning your phone on mid flight, I would have stuck it up your backside you dickhead! (Turning it off first of course) you should really be reported for breaking aviation rules.
    I

  175. Not sure what you are complaining about, the pilots or the weather? Would you have posted if the weather was not so bad? I guess not. Therefore, your real complaint is that the pilots did not say hello!
    Maybe, if the weather was as bad as you say you should be praising them for getting you back on the ground safely. And turning your phone on while in flight? You would have just exposed the entire flight to even more danger! I would have taken it from you and rammed it up your backside you dickhead. You should actually be reported for admission of breaking aviation law. Prick. You sound a needy wanker to me and you look like one too.

  176. Are you fucking kidding me? Do you expect us to believe the following crap:
    ” As the cabin door was about to open one of the female flight attendants emerged from the cockpit with her makeup smeared all over her face from crying, and she said she was in the cockpit the entire approach as the pilots “needed her help.” She also passed on that the captain said he was going to retire after that flight.”

    you are just an idiot..i flew RJ many many times and never had such an experience…it’s one of the safest airlines the world…WTF dude

  177. I think it is so funny that people are actually saying that you put the the entire flight at risk by opening your cell phone. Hahahahahah what idiots. Report “for admission of breaking aviation law” hahahahha oh man.. that made my day.

  178. It’s May 2015. After boycotting RJ for over 10 years, I decided to bring my 82 year old Mom on business class. Mom missed her connection flight and was stranded in the airport for few hours. It was a nightmare. RJ has proven to be the worst airline I ever had to deal with

  179. The Captain and his First Officer on a plane only have two hands, two eyes, two ears and one mouth like the rest of us – if it was as bad as portrayed here then the last thing on his mind is to talk to those he is carrying. First and foremost he has a duty of care to those on board the aircraft and ensuring the plane gets onto the ground without any casualties (on his wheels or not). I wouldn’t take it as the Pilot being ignorant or thinking of himself, he and his co-pilot have to make decisions at the blink of an eye…they were focused on keeping you safe. When it comes to the above, politeness and reassuring words take a back seat. You’ve got to remember, these guys have gone through some of the most intensive/expensive training there is and it’s not a turn up and pass, not even to mention the thousands of hours at the helm before they can even get a job with a major airline – 99% of them are as cool and collected as they sound on the PA system.

    As for the weather and as you probably have experienced in Asia, it changes at a moments notice and without warning. You can be sat in blazing sunshine one minute and the next it’s like hell on earth…but if he was waiting on weather, he should have found a suitable alternative (unless he was running low on fuel).

    I disagree and resent the statements of those who say it’s an ego thing – he or she has to use all of their resources to ensure the safety of the aircraft, not sooth people in what is an apparent time of distress.

  180. @Andrew …. Very very well said indeed!

    I like Lucky, respect his knowledge immensely, but a pilot he ain’t (even though he sometimes writes as if he is qualified to be one…ridicuously)

    I am a current jet pilot and ex 747 captain. What you described is 100% correct. A few weeks ago I was in bad turbulence and found it extremely hard even to talk on the radio as I was being slammed all over the sky. Im sure the HK flight was far worse. He should actually be very glad they kept him safe and delivered him to terra firma in one piece. In that kind of weather (better to have not been there in 1st place but hard to refuse to go as an airline) both pilots would have been on stop busy, number 1just controlling the aircraft, believe it or not, utilizing the radar as effectively as poss (an art in itself) negotiating deviations from route with ATC, operating anti ice and rain protection systems, with all the normal duties, and speaking english as a second language to ATC who is also foreign to English.

    I don’t think Lucky reads or responds to comments anymore, but if you do. Please… I assure you, you know very very little about flight operations. Like…nothing. Your judgement for example recently of the Qatar pilots in Miami etc is ridiculous (you weren’t there for a start!)

    Passing judgement on pilots operationally is like me judging brain surgeon’s operation. Please, I welcome your thoughts, if by any tiny chance you will even read this. Take care, and happy travels

  181. A lot of people enjoy flying on “second tier” or worse airlines as a type of adventurism. I will only fly on first world airlines. Buying expensive and very large planes can be bought by any airline, but pilot training, meticulous fleet maintenance, and a properly trained cabin crew is not something worth gambling with for a cheaper airfare.

  182. Wow..that’s really scary. At the back of my head I’ve always wondered how it feels like to be on a scary flight. But then again, I’m thankful that I haven’t…yet.

  183. I agree with Andy. The top priority of a pilot is to make sure you are safe, not that you are calm. Also airplanes are made to withstand lightning storms. Contrary to common belief, lightning storms can’t destroy a plane. Also being a pilot is highly stressful. You are single handedly responsible for 500 lives. A slight mistake can kill 500 other people. Lucky, you forget that pilots are stressed even more in such poor visibility and in turbulence it’s hard to talk on the radio

  184. I think it deserves to be said here that Royal Jordanian is one of only three legacy carriers in the world who never had a fatal accident.
    The other two are Qantas and Finnair.
    That is an impressive safety record and doesn’t deserve the “never again” label of a seasoned travel blogger.

  185. I had a flight coming into Hamilton (Canada) last winter and it was pretty rough.
    There wasn’t really hail and lightning but the winds were crazy and we came down basically perpendicular to the runway.
    Glad you’re ok, Lucky.

  186. As a Jordanian I wouldn’t even dare to set foot on an RJ flight. It’s combination of god awful service, badly maintained plains & unprofessional crew is a recipe for disaster.

  187. You have 3 options 1. Find God 2. Grow some balls and start acting like those Jordanian men 3. Take the emergency time to reflect on evolution and Darwin.

    Don’t blame pilots for your own problems, they are pilots not baby sitters, their only job is land you safely.

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