“Le singe est sur la branche.”
If you don’t speak French, nothing in the above sentence means anything to you (and if you do, it’s our little secret). Such was the experience of all the non-Francophones aboard a recent Aer Lingus flight, when a message, in French, was played by a crewmember. The Anglophones sat in blissful ignorance, while the Francophones caught every word. And then descended into panic.
Why? The French message instructed passengers to prepare for an emergency landing, note the emergency exits, and await instructions from the captain.
Here’s what happened. The plane was entering turbulence, so the crew played a message, in English, instructing passengers to buckle up and prepare for some bumps. The crew then attempted to play the same message in French, but played an altogether different message instead.
The plane was flying above the ocean at the time.
Apparently it took some time, roughly five minutes, for the flight crew to realize what happened. Upon noticing the despair in the cabin, a crewmember apologized over the PA. To make matters worse, many French are still reeling from the crash of Air France flight 447, which went down in the ocean between Brazil and Africa in June. This incident happened in early August but wasn’t reported until now.
It’s beyond me how crew could not only play the wrong message, but play quite possibly the most severe and terrifying message in the aircraft’s system. There are mistakes you can shrug off, and ones you can’t. My sense is this falls into the latter category, and it will be interesting to see if, and how, Aer Lingus responds, now that the story—and really, really bad press—is out.