I’m a male, 25 Years old, I was in transit at Addis Adaba for flight ET702.

News coverage on Yahoo

Proof: Luggage tag.

The plane was hijacked one hour after take-off. This is how it went down.

After entering the plane, I went to my seat: economy class, window-side and next to the right wing. As it was around midnight, I quickly fell asleep during take-off. I was waken up an hour later due to the sound of all the oxygen mask going down. I immediatly thought « what the... » I looked at my neighbor, she seemed as confused at me: the plane was not behaving oddly so I thought it was a simple technical glitch or somebody pressed the wrong button. Everybody looked at each other, thinking what’s going on. Suddenly, a deep and angry voice talked through the cabin radio: "SIT DOWN, PUT YOUR MASKS ON, I'M CUTTING THE OXYGEN", three times. At this point, I realized that the situation is serious: someone is in the pilot cabin and has hijacked the plane. Within a few seconds, the oxygen went down in the cabin: I felt very lightheaded and quickly decided to put on the oxygen mask like the rest of the passengers. Quickly after that, the plane suddenly started dropping down for about 8 seconds then went fast back up, then finally stablized. People were crying, yelling, praying. I was in complete panic. Cold. We were then waiting for an update, an information, what was going on. But it never came. We flew for 6 more hours, knowing only that a pirate was at command. Who was he, what was his intentions ? I started thinking, too far. For he was probably alone, he couldn’t possibly be planning to land at an airport, he would immediatly get caught. So I quickly took away the possibilty of landing safely. As I was looking throught the window, all I could see was dark. Dark up, dark down.

For the next 6 hours, I was imagining every possible outcome of this story : from suddenly crashing into the ocean, to hitting a building, to crashing into another plane, to landing and being killed as a martyr. At this point, I remember trying to send a SMS to my family and girlfriend « There is a problem with the plane. I love you, you are the best » on a 5% battery and stressing that another terrorist would see me and shoot me. There was no network, so I decided to shut down my phone and thought of restarting it just before we crashed, so the messages would eventually come through. I held hands the whole way with my seat neighboor, a very nice, simple older italian woman. Every single second of those 6 hours of uncertainty and soon-to-be death was a psychological torture. I broke down, let everything go, said goodbye, though of my family, of moments in the past, of who will inherit my stuff and much more.

The flight was supposed to land at Rome at 4:40am. At 5:30am we were still high, high in the sky. Down throught the window , I could see a coast and some light far away that somehow reassured me. Around 5:45, the plane started suddenly to do circle. Circles left, circle right. It seemed that this went on at least 20 times. I was thinking that maybe the pirate wants to deplete the fuel and stall the plane. We were still at the same altitude, we were not going towards land. After this terribly long sequence of turns, the plane started going down towards land at a normal speed. When we reached the clouds, the wings deployed completely like a normal landing, but it seemed to me like it wanted to cover more area to do more damage. I was thinking : that’s it, we’re crashing into something. Looking down to the window I see a light, two, three, I can’t see what’s ahead. It’s still dark. We’re going fast, we’re flying over many houses now. And suddenly, under us, the airport. Just thinking again about this moment makes me shiver. We are landing. WE, are LANDING. Is this true ? Is this a miracle ? We touched the ground, and the plane eventually stopped completely in a bit away from the plane entrance to the terminal. I remember crying, while most of the people (Italians) were applauding. At this point, for the first time in 6 hours, we got an update from the steward telling us about the copilot, that we are in Geneva and that soon the Swiss police will enter and evacuate the plane. Eventually, the Swiss tactical forces entered the plane, telling is to put our hands on the head and stay calm. It took about 2-3 minutes person person to evacuate. An hour later, I was finally out. We were checked and accompagnied very kindly by the swiss. There were sandwitches, hot chocolate, free wifi and psychologues. A few hours later, I could get my luggage and went out through normal gates. My mother was there, we went for a walk along the Leman lake and she cooked some good meal. The psychological impact is not negligible, I'm still in a state of shock. I'm a lucky bastard, I hope none of you have to experience that. AMA.

tl;dr: Got to plane, after an hour the oxygen mask went down, scary voice through radio, plane going fast up and fast down, no update during 6 hours and finally landed safely. Miracle.

Edit: English Grammar / Added News Article

Edit: Why was my mother in Geneva? My final destination was Geneva, I work there. I had a flight from Rome to Geneva just after this one. As I was coming back from holidays, she had long planned on taking her days off to visit her friends in my hometown (1 hour away, France) and by the same occasion, visit me. In the end, I am very thankful and lucky to have her outside of the airport when I came out.

Edit: Honestly and truly thank you to everybody on this thread.

Edit: Thank you kind person for the Gold! I will treasure it.

Edit: I'm taking a break to eat a Swiss Fondue. Thank you everyone so much for your question and support. Sorry for all the questions I didn't answer. Stay classy reddit, let's learn from this story and make the world a better place.

Edit: Good night reddit, will continue answering tommorow!

Edit: Sorry about the martyr part, I should have researched the meaning more before talking about it.

Edit: As a redditor pointed, the oxygen didn't went down in the cabin, it could only be the pressure. It is even likely than nothing happened and I felt lightheaded because of the panic.

Edit: I feel like I didn't emphasize on how the Ethiopian Airlines flight attendants were reassuring, professional and very helpful. Big thanks to them.

Comments: 5057 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

noslipcondition3885 karma

Just so everybody knows, the pilot can't just "turn the oxygen off to the cabin." The cabin air isn't anything more than outside air that has been filtered. It is pulled into the aircraft through a bleed system in the jet engines. There is no supplemental oxygen in the cabin air supply to turn off. It's just plain air.

What the captain could do is depressurize the cabin, which would make breathing difficult or impossible, forcing people to use the supplemental oxygen masks. But that would be a dangerous move for other reasons.

More info here.


Threatening to "turn the oxygen off" was most likely a scare tactic to keep everybody under control. If you think you need to breath from the mask, you can't leave your seat because that's where the mask is. A really clever way to keep people from storming the cockpit.

Edit: If, for some reason, you are ever in a situation where you are on an airplane that has depressurized and you need to move away from your seat (possibly to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers,) the flight attendants have portable oxygen masks with tanks so they can walk around the cabin. They are usually in the rear most overhead bins near the first aid kits.

Source: I'm a pilot.

OK3n2743 karma

Thanks a lot for this info. I was actually wondering if I became lightheaded because of a panic attack or because of the oxygen going out.

Do you know how long you could be without a mask in this situation? Thanks!

imba82543 karma

Is there anything specific (bar the hell part) about the coverage that is just plain false? Each time I've known first hand info from a news story, there have always been factual errors.

OK3n3719 karma

"Passengers on the plane were unaware it had been hijacked, officials said."

We were pretty aware. That was the worst part.

Basxt1881 karma

Holy shit. Thanks for sharing!

Where you still able to walk in the plane to take a piss or to get something out of your bag?

Where there "guards" watching the people so that no one would try to re-jack the plane safely/hurt the pilot*

OK3n2382 karma

Yes, we were moving freely. There was no sign of guards or anything in the cabin, apparently he was alone in the cockpit, locked. The stewardess were giving out water and saying safe words. However, you could see some of them were crying.

bkcmart1261 karma

Is today the best day of your life?

OK3n2112 karma

Good question. My head is still in that plane.

unapologetiq1223 karma

How were the flight attendants during the whole flight? Did they end up offering their services as usual? Did they give any information about the whole ordeal?

Glad to see everyone onboard landed safely, such a scary situation.

OK3n1766 karma

Flight attendants were reassuring, distributing drinks from time to time. Mostly sticking together and talking in Ethiopian. I went to see one of them "privately" to ask what the hell was going on. She said the captain has cut all communication between the crew and himself. But she said we're going to land. I didn't believe it.

LemonCookies1120 karma

Were all the passengers besides the people in the cabin released?

OK3n1728 karma

The Swiss entered, released business class, released the crew, released the economy class. By released I mean go outside hand in the air and get checked by a bunch of policemans.

domalino2952 karma


OK3n2246 karma

Yes, they got escorted by a special dedicated team so they could go home faster.

janowhatever926 karma

Will you ever fly again? Did the airline offer any help after you landed?

BTW: I wonder if the pilot did lower cabin pressure to force people to stay on their seats?!

OK3n1552 karma

Yes, I will fly again. The help was offered by the swiss: they really outdid themselves: great support, food, drinks, informations, phone calls etc..

Yes, I believe the captain lowered the cabin pressure to force people to sit. However, after 20-30 minutes the pressure came back. Without annoucement, somebody just took his mask off and everybody followed.

LemonCookies815 karma

Wow, I am thankful you came out physically and mentally unharmed. Any clue as to what happened to end the hijacking?

OK3n1253 karma

Apparently the (good) pilot was negociating from outside the cabin the whole time.

jeffAA513 karma

mentally unharmed

"The psychological impact is not negligible..."

OP, stay strong. I'd probably still be shitting my pants.

OK3n575 karma

Thanks. It feels great to write about it.

Stevenab87767 karma

Your mom just happened to be in Geneva?

OK3n1272 karma

She was visiting her friends in a town near, lucky!

CharlieChuu433 karma

Make sure you get yourself taken care of for PTSD. It is no joke. Panic is no joke. You stared death in the face and that is something you can never unsee. Seriously it is very important to make sure you get help.

OK3n350 karma

Thank you. If I don't feel well after a few days I will definitely got see a pro.

notinsanescientist754 karma

Man, I cannot fully imagine the terror you've been in. Very good narrating.

Enjoy the best day of your life and take a gasp of fresh cold air to fill your lungs.

OK3n665 karma

Thanks, It feels great to talk about it.

AGneissDay701 karma

Did you ever consider 'being a hero' and trying to help out the staff (as some of the 9-11 passengers did), or was the situation just too terrifying for such a thought to cross your mind? (I realise, it was probably too dangerous to do anything!)

OK3n954 karma

Yes, I thought about it a lot. Then I thought that since this guy has control, the risk is too big if we fail.

pinktiara601 karma

Hi there, thank you for sharing!

Do you plan on staying in contact with the Italian woman you mentioned was sitting beside you, holding your hand? The idea of having to prepare for possible death with a complete stranger (or strangers, rather) and then surviving is so profound, it must create some type of emotional attachment to that individual.

OK3n803 karma

Yes! We exchanged contact detail. I was planning on writing to her tonight.

riddellmethis568 karma

So it was silence during the whole flight from the crew? How did they apprehend the copilot? And who did?

OK3n899 karma

Yes, absolutely no information. That was the worst. They apprehend the copilot as he was trying to escape the plane "using a rope" apparently. I didn't see it.

ichegoya451 karma

Did the co-pilot say anything else to the passengers while he was flying the plane? Did he make any announcements after landing?

OK3n660 karma

Yes, he talked once in the beginning. "SIT DOWN, PUT YOUR MASKS ON, I'M CUTTING THE OXYGEN". No announcement after landing.

zandyman404 karma

At what point did you think, "if I get through this, I'm going to do an AmA?"

OK3n419 karma

Haha. It was more like I'm not going to get through this. Then I just wanted to write about it. I'm glad it's so popular! Thank you so much.

cperks686376 karma

What was it like stare death in the face? At any point did you reach a point of peace. Did you ever accept it or keep hope?

OK3n743 karma

I think it's like you are dying in a hospital bed. You're scared, you know that it's over soon and you ask yourself a lot of questions: do you have regrets, who will come to your funeral, is this real.. There nothing you can do, so you eventually accept it to 90%.

MrTentacleGuy17360 karma

Have you, or do you think you will be, receiving any compensation and/or apology from the airline?

What about post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis/treatment, e.g. from your government?

OK3n608 karma

Good question, I will call the airline tommorow to ask about it.

I did receive a business card of a french ambassador to "talk about it if i'm in need".

A swiss psycholog is calling me tonight to check on me.

The_mrs335 karma

years ago, pre 9-11 even, I took part in a security training exercise at a major airport in which I got to play the part of a hijacked hostage. Just PLAYING the role was psychologically difficult, even knowing it wasn't real (it was done realistically, but obviously, we knew they weren't real terrorists. They had psychologists on hand and took periodic breaks to make sure we were ok, as in previous years they'd ended up with some seriously freaked out people (someone wet themselves when they asked to go to the bathroom and the "terrorist" told them no). So with all that in mind, I want to give you the biggest hug right now. I can't even begin to imagine how insanely scary that was, and six hours is a LONG DARN TIME to be absolutely terrified. Did they offer you any extended mental health assistance? No one would blame you if you needed a couple meetings with a counselor over all this. I'm just really glad that you all made it through physically unharmed at least. wow.

OK3n239 karma

Hi and thanks. Yes, the swiss offered assistance and somebody from their psychology team is checking on me by phone.

mrwobblez246 karma

This is some powerful stuff... Thank you

OK3n253 karma

Thank you for reading.

mcgyver7896240 karma

Was anyone in the cabin talking to each other or planning a way to stop the guy?

OK3n332 karma

Good question, I don't know. I thought about it a lot but I was petrified.

Ivota240 karma

My friend, you are lucky to be alive. I was listening to the atc communications. The Swiss took an extraordinary amount of time deciding how to handle the situation. There was an engine that flamed out because your plane was flying on fumes of jet fuel, thankfully you landed on the single engine in time.

OK3n254 karma

I don't know what to say

bostonsports98224 karma

Did you ever see the hijacker?

OK3n354 karma

No, as he was the copilot he never left the cabin.

YellowB156 karma

GGTerrorist: Knows you have to take a connecting flight to get to work in Geneva, hijacks the plane and flies you to Geneva.

OK3n66 karma

Please make a picture of that and send it to me.

timthetollman147 karma

Did anyone light a cigarette? I would in that situation

OK3n129 karma

Haha. I didn't cross my mind.

aflyboy129 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm an airline employee and this story really moved me, what an absolute nightmare. Very glad you're physically okay, I can only hope that mentally you'll be feeling better soon.

Did this particular aircraft not have in-flight entertainment systems with a live map? I had thought Ethiopian was pretty up-to-date on their aircraft. It would be such a nightmare to be completely unaware, I feel like at least seeing the aircraft on a map would be pretty reassuring.

And for comedic relief, your new pickup line can definitely be "well, I've survived one hijacking, but this time you've hijacked my heart."

Glad you're okay!

OK3n187 karma

Hi and thanks. Good question about the live map. No, the plane was a Boeing 767-300ER and it looked quite old.

One thing that reassured me is my watch. It has a compass in it and i could see that we were going NW, which was Europe. At least we were not going back to the center of Africa.

Great line, I'll use it :)

djlenny_3000123 karma

Firstly, glad everyone is safe, I hope some good fortune comes to you and everyone else on that plane in the next little while to make up for that.

Secondly, How did the rest of the people on the plane react? I can imagine a lot of people completely breaking down, what was the worst that you saw?

Was there a consensus amongst any of the passengers to do something about it?

OK3n217 karma

To be honest, the plane was 95% italians and most of them couldn't talk in english. They were talking amongst themselves but I don't know was it was about. I didn't see anybody breaking down completely, just praying or singing.

KharmaChameleon118 karma

What were you doing in Ethiopia?

OK3n167 karma

Transit from Tanzania

nospinhere174 karma

What were you doing in Tanzania?

elegantboss501 karma

Transit from Geneva

OK3n386 karma

You actually made me laugh. +1 Internet for you

rectovaginalfistula116 karma

Interesting tactic--cut the oxygen to keep people in their seats. Pretty smart way to keep people from being heroes...

OK3n126 karma

I thought the same thing... I wonder how long would you need to pass out in a cabin without oxygen

Midonyah91 karma

OMG. Please don't let that be buried. I'm a flight attendant, and I'm very curious about the crew. I'm unaware of their procedures, but I wonder if you could see some of them? Usually on a case like that, I'm assuming the crew would have to get to their assigned seats (and given the falling of the masks, I'm pretty sure they did).

The pilot was out, so he MUST have communicated with the rest of the crew. Why did they not say something? I'm pretty sure they were as worried as you were. What did they do? What could they do? Did you see any of them? Were they allowed to leave their seats? What about when the plane landed? What did they do?

... Given the configuration on the plane, I'm pretty sure at least one of their seat was facing a passenger's, or at least visible by one. Do you know how they reacted, or why they didn't say anything?

Honestly, when I'm seating for the last minute before landing, I always chat with the passengers, or at least one of them has a question for me. How can they have faced terrified passengers for 5 hours without information?

OK3n62 karma

Hi. You are right. They stayed on their seat the first 30 minutes. The rest of the flight, they kept company to each other occassionaly brought beverages in cups to passengers.

I went to see them a couple of times, to check their faces hoping they would know more than me. They were standing up in the place were they put the food and there are toilets. They were talking in Ethiopian, I couldn't understand. Some looked quite calm, but you could see that one or two of them were panicked inside them. Judging from their faces when they were talking, I think they were trying to find a solution, they kept serious.

I didn't see the pilot, I don't know where he was.

Plutonium_23920 karma

What did you think was the most likely intention of the hijacker at the time? Why were you in Ethiopia in the first place?

OK3n28 karma

Most likely intention: crash the plane into another one in flight. I was in Ethiopia in Transit coming back from Tanzanian Holidays

bchandl20 karma

So OP, I was following the story very close as it unfolded before I went to bed (America)... I have one tidbit of info I wanted to share and one question.

First, the news and aviation authorities were originally tipped off when the hijacker turned the squawk code 7500 which is code for hyjacking. Squawk is a code sent to the tower and is used to identify flights on the radar for atc. Seems weird he basically outed himself as a hijacker.

Secondly, as I watched the plane track as you endlessly circled around Geneva I heard on liveatc that the right engine had flamed out and you landed on one engine due to extreme low fuel. Is this true?

You mentioned you sat on the right wing... Did you see a flameout? Hear it? (Sounds like a car revving then goes out)

Thanks OP

OK3n19 karma

Hi and thanks for having followed. When I was up there, I was wondering if anybody has noticed of what we were going through.

I was on the right and I'm pretty positive that is was normal. There was no weird sound or anything. But he did deploy "completely" all the wing parts, I don't know if it's related.

Kazak_DogofSpace15 karma

Congratulations on your safe arrival! I can't even imagine the stress and terror of that ordeal. I just have a few quick questions; where are you from originally and what were you doing in Ethiopia (if you don't mind my asking)? Most curiously though; how was it that your mother was in Geneva? Weren't you flying to Rome? Just a happy accident?

OK3n32 karma

Thanks. I was in transit from Tanzani, coming back from holidays.

I live in Geneva, so the plane was actually re-routed to my final destination. I originally had a plane from Rome to Geneva after this one.

My mother was a week off in my original town not far from here (1 hour).


Have you been compensated for the ordeal? Any airlines offer you free flights?

OK3n16 karma

No contact from them yet. I'm going to call them this afternoon to talk about it.

Jayanth_N10 karma

Why did the Pilot step out leaving the co-pilot in-charge? Was he in the main cabin and was he moving around, talking to passengers?

OK3n24 karma

He went to the toilet. I didn't see him during the flight, I supposed he was at the very front.

3FingersDown6 karma

That initial shock, followed by 6 hours of waiting must have been horrible. I'd have to imagine that in America it would've been 6 hours of screaming. What happened during the 6 hours and how were people coping?

EDIT: I'm really glad everyone aboard was physically unharmed.

OK3n28 karma

Mostly silence. To be honest, I think most of the people didn't get the situation, and realized it after the landing when the special forces came. Some were sleeping, chatting, laughing.. Why? Probably because the flight attendants were reassuring and saying "We will land, we will, nothing's happening" and they believed it.

I unfortunately didn't. I investigated with another flight attendant to get a better look at the situation and I realized they didn't know what will happen as the captain has stopped communicating with them. It was a bad call.

95% of the plane were Italian Tourists.

BrutallyHonestDude5 karma

Great cockpit security doors. Was there no way to override them?

OK3n17 karma

They're made to be safe from the inside I believe. It works as long as the pirate is not one of the two original pilots.

bostonronin5 karma

If it's any comfort - Statistically, it's seriously unlikely that you'll ever have to go through something like that again.

That said - I'm so happy that you and the rest of the crew and passengers made it through safely. Make sure to take your time processing and I hope you live a long, healthy and happy life and can put this event behind you.

One last side note: I'm very amused that you noticed the free wifi when you got off the plane and got to the recovery area. It's really funny the stuff our brains latch onto when we're freaked out.

OK3n8 karma

Thanks, but statistics don't take the past into account. Not wanting to be pessimisting or anothing :P

Toad324 karma

Thank you for the insight. I could imagine how terrifying this could be. Were there any terrorists in the cabin with you, or just the cockpit? Did anyone try to do anything?

OK3n10 karma

There was no sight of terrorists in the cabin. But I heard somewhere that there was always a 'back-up' terrorist in the passengers, so I was looking for him. I don't think anybody tried anything.

rossd_2oo51 karma

Is there some other proof you could provide in addition to the luggage tag? Perhaps the stub from your boarding card or a stamp from Ethiopian Emigration?

It seems a bit unlikely that your mother would be in Switzerland and able to make it to Geneva to be waiting on you when the plane was originally destined for Rome.

Edit: Also you claim to have been able to walk about the cabin, even though you stated the oxygen had been removed from the cabin. /u/noslipconditon 's post suggests this would have been practically impossible.

OK3n1 karma

Well, I took the passenger card for flight safety instruction from the plane if you want.

I can't find the boarding card and I'm very angry about it as I wanted to put in on the wall.

I don't have a ethiopian stamp as I was in transit.

I have: a foursquare checking, a e-ticket number, a picture inside the airport (but i'm not on it). If you want additional proof, I'd be happy to provide my original flight tickets number but in a private message.

By the way, I live in Geneva and it was my final destination. You could call it "luck".