The Egypt Air aircraft that was hijacked last Tuesday is still all the rage. Everyone is talking about the incident, the passengers who suddenly realized that instead of Cairo, they are going to Cyprus, the hijacker who wanted to get in touch with his ex wife, and, of course, all the “hijack selfies”. With all the memes spreading like wildfire all over the Internet, a particular Facebook status caught our attention. This was the status written by Dr. Abdullah El Ashmawy, one of the survivors of this hijacking. We got in touch with him in an attempt to find out more about the incident.
All those stories you told are hilarious. Did people think they’re funny then? Do you think things like that would happen from non-Egyptians?
Egyptians are lovely and have a great sense of humour. They were spontaneous, though. I am not sure how non–Egyptians would have reacted to this. I have never been hijacked with non-Egyptians! (laughs)
Other than those stories, were people actually frightened?
People were so scared. I will never forget their facial expressions. Some were shocked, others were crying and some were in denial.
“People were so scared. I will never forget their facial expressions. Some were shocked, others were crying and some were in denial.”
Many photos surfaced of people taking selfies with the hijacker, did people take the situation lightly?
No one took it lightly. This was at the end of the whole thing, I assume. This was just before the last three passengers were set free. I think by that time, they knew he won’t harm anyone and maybe thought it was a fake belt.
These photos prompted people to blame the cabin crew on their recklessness because some images included the cabin crew themselves. As someone who has witnessed this firsthand, what actually happened?
All the cabin crew members were very supportive. They were really professional dealing with the situation. I had already left the plane when they took these pictures, but the flight attendant whose picture has spread all over Social Media was doing a great job throughout the flight and tried as much as possible to calm all the passengers. She may have taken this picture as mentioned in the news, to send it to the authorities to identify the hijacker but I am not sure. This also was at the end just before the last three passengers were set free.
What could have been handled better?
Everything was handled in an outstanding way. The Egypt Air District Manager in Cyprus helped us all and answered all our questions. We received new tickets and our hotel rooms were booked by the time we arrived safely in Cairo. The Egyptian Minister of Aviation flew to Cyprus to check we were all alright and he accompanied us on our journey back to Cairo.
“I had already left the plane when they took these pictures, but the flight attendant whose picture has spread all over Social Media was doing a great job throughout the flight and tried as much as possible to calm all the passengers.”
Have you felt any sympathy for the hijacker?
Of course not! How can I feel any sympathy for a man who frightened and scared all those on board and their families? I will never forget these moments; a baby crying, terrified wives, and an old man in a panic attack. It was also a very hard day to our families and friends.
Would you consider this a life-altering experience?
Yes of course. It reminded me that we can all die at anytime.
Were some people actually excited to be landing in Cyprus?
Of course not, but maybe next time I take a plane, I will make sure I have my swimsuit ready in my hand bag. Just kidding! (laughs)
“I also saw the funny man who had a frozen chicken in his luggage again in the hotel shuttle bus on our way back to the airport the following morning. He was still complaining”
Have you had any interaction with the people you’ve mentioned in your status?
Yes, the lovely guy who was sleeping and woke up to know we were landing in Cyprus and was angry he will miss his connection flight turned out to be a family friend. He told me he gave them his passport and slept. He did not know that anything is wrong until he woke up.
I also saw the funny man who had a frozen chicken in his luggage again in the hotel shuttle bus on our way back to the airport the following morning. He was still complaining and we told him he should be thankful we all survived this and forget about his chicken. (laughs)