British holidaymakers were left "traumatised" recently after a Monarch pilot told them that a technical problem could have led them to "a quick, watery grave".
The comments were made after a flight from the Caribbean was delayed for 24 hours due to a problem with the reverse thrusters. As passengers boarded the following day, the pilot also reportedly compared the fault to one that caused the Lauda Air crash in 1991 that killed all 213 passengers on board.
"We always encourage pilots to give regular and open updates to our customers," said Monarch Airlines in a statement: "On this occasion, during one update, he used an inappropriate choice of words and has expressed his regret in doing so."
The incident followed a Southwest Airlines flight in November, during which a pilot declared "We're in trouble, we're going down" when alerted to a problem. The plane landed safely, despite the warning.
Patrick Smith, a pilot, explained in an article in London's Telegraph that "passengers will be told about any emergency or serious malfunction. And most non-serious ones too."
He added: "If you’re informed about a landing gear issue, pressurisation problem, engine trouble, or the need for a precautionary landing, do not construe this to be a life-or-death situation. It’s virtually always something minor - though you’ll be kept in the loop anyway. With even an outside chance of an evacuation in mind, you have to be kept in the loop."
Perhaps more eye-opening, however, were the comments left on the article by readers detailing the most worrying crew announcements they have heard on board a flight. Here are some of the best.
1. "Returning home to Aberdeen on a wet and windy Friday afternoon, the pilot explained, 'Good afternoon gentlemen. You will have noticed that it's a bit hairy in the skies and the wind is against us. We require a steep take off out of here and it will be tricky but hold on to your seats, it's Friday night and I've got a wedding reception to go to. Over and out'."
2. Sitting quietly on a flight to Helsinki with my boss (a terrified flyer at the best of times) the pilot made an announcement in Finnish that made all the Finns sit up and take note. He then repeated in laconic English: 'Ladies and gentlemen we shall be making an unscheduled landing and steep approach to Tampere airport, the plane is on fire, thank you'. We then make a Stuka-like approach to Tampere and a safe landing. It was only smoke in the cockpit. My boss did try to get me to hire a car and drive him back to the UK though."
3. "Ten seconds after take off at full thrust we felt a loss of power and then detected the smell of burnt metal. The captain announced: 'Would the lead steward please come to the flight deck... immediately'. The steward duly attended and then walked towards the back of the plane with her head skewed firmly to the port side. Once past the wing, she stared at the engine, returned to the cockpit and closed the door. There were several more trips back and forth and people started to panic. It turned that a birdstrike had completely fried the engine. We returned to the airport safely, but 'immediately' is not a word that you want to hear coming from the cockpit."
4. "A few years ago on a flight from Paris to Dublin the crew played in English the correct announcement ('The captain has switched on the seatbelt sign' or whatever) but in French they mistakenly played the announcement to 'adopt the brace position in preparation for a crash landing'. All the French passengers immediately went into a panic, while the rest of us wondered what the fuss was about!"
5. "Late flight from Perth to Singapore, about to take-off, but suddenly came to a halt and taxied off the runway. 'Ladies and gents, captain here. Just had a warning light there, probably a glitch so we'll just contact engineering'. Fifteen minutes later off we went again only to come to another shuddering halt. The loudspeaker starts: 'Errr, captain here, looks like it wasn't a glitch after all.' Excellent. Once airborne, he came on to say 'Trust me, it's better being down there, wishing you were up here, than being up here, wishing you were down there!' Love those Aussie pilots."
6. "Long time ago, as a young teen flying from San Juan to New York. Big bang and the cabin lights went out. I had actually experienced this before, and knew it was a lightning strike, so wasn't worried - lots of stormy weather in that neck of the woods. Some passengers had a little ripple of concern and then settled down. Lights came back. Then the captain said 'Ladies and gentlemen, we were just struck by lightning.' Now THAT sent the passengers into a complete tiz. Some crying, and - for some reason I have never understood - some climbed over the back of their seats. One (presumably green) flight attendant went pale and just kind of dropped, not a faint, more of a prayer. If he hadn't said anything it would have been a lot better."
7. "'Ladies and Gentlemen, you may have noticed that our descent is bumpier than usual. We came too close to another plane and I had to take evasive action.' Cue white knuckles until we landed."
8. "Landing in Johannesburg with only three passengers on board, and in a magnificently thick Afrikaans accent: 'Ach man, we made it again, when will our luck run out? The pilot is drunk and the co-pilot appears to be a baboon'. I THINK it was a private joke with someone on board."
9. "Flying into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport one evening, many years ago. It was a textbook landing but after a few seconds rolling down the runway, the engines suddenly throttled up, the nose pitched up violently and we were taking off again. There was a lot of nervous chatter in the cabin for about a minute or so while we gained height and levelled off. Then the captain spoke over the tannoy in a thick, comforting Texan drawl: 'Ladies and gentlemen, I do apologise for that unscheduled and sudden departure, but there was another airplane crossing the runway, so we thought it would be a good idea to go around and try again in a few minutes'."
10. Airbus 320, high summer, Skiathos/Thessaloniki to Gatwick. Pilot: 'Ladies and gentlemen, there is the largest storm cloud formation I have ever experienced on our route over central Europe and I am going to attempt to fly over it. Please fasten your seat belts. Cabin Crew, stow all loose items and take your seats.' It would have cost us many English pounds at Alton Towers to experience that next two hours."
11. "Flying in a very small twin to Amsterdan Schipol from Cambridge Airport, after several pints of excellent free coffee. "Er, where is the loo?" "We don't have one," replied the steward. Every minor bump was agony and I nearly got arrested for rushing through the gate to the nearest loo."
12. "'Ladies and gentlemen, we've just discovered that they've forgotten to give us any glasses for the drinks on this long haul flight...'"
13. "Flight from Tel Aviv. Crew came on the intercom before take-off and told us: 'The in-flight entertainment system isn't working and the cabin crew will be organising karaoke instead'. I think the cabin crew were even more terrified than the the rest of us about the thought of a plane-load of oiks singing off-key."
Have you ever experienced a scary in-flight announcement? Post your stories below.
The Telegraph, London