Passengers sent into panic as AirAsia flight is forced to turn back

For passengers on a recent AirAsia flight, those fears became justified as the aircraft reportedly plunged 20,00 feet mid-flight and the plane had to alter its route.

Flight QZ535 returned safely on Sunday to Perth Airport where numerous 145 passengers spoke to media about the fear and confusion on board.

Data from Flightaware.com shows the plane for AirAsia Flight QZ535, which was an Airbus A320, plummeted from above 34,000 feet to 10,000 feet in a matter of minutes.

Videos of people in distress with oxygen masks dangling in front of the passengers have been doing the rounds.

Claire Askew, who was on the flight, said that people's fears weren't helped at all by the fact that airline staff were also screaming, shouting instructions to the passengers and apparently in tears.

Another passenger, Clare Askew, told reporters that the panic escalated "because of the behaviour of staff who were screaming, looked tearful and shocked".

"We commend our pilots for landing the aircraft safely and complying with standard operating procedure", AirAsia Group head of safety Captain Ling Liong Tien said. The airline further mentioned that the safety of its passengers is its priority and that they are sorry for the inconvenience caused.

In a statement, Air Asia said its engineers at Perth Airport were assessing the plane. "We are fully committed to the safety of our guests and crew and we will continue to ensure that we adhere to the highest safety standards".

After the mid-air scare the flight eventually returned to Perth where it landed safely.

"One of the stewardesses started running down the aisle and we thought, 'why is she running?' And then the masks fell down and everybody started panicking".

Passengers interviewed by 9NEWS said they picked up their phones and started texting goodbye messages to loved ones as they thought they were going to die. "It was really upsetting", a passenger was quoted as saying. Another passenger told news outlets, "They went hysterical".

Another passenger, Norman Pearce, said the crew told the passengers to assume crash positions - "and that was it".

A crew member on that flight was criticised for encouraging passengers to pray. Nothing for about five minutes and then the oxygen fell down'.

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