High tension in the air after AirAsia X plane glitch

KUALA LUMPUR - Passengers on board an AirAsia X flight to Jeddah had to endure four hours of high anxiety as their plane, which took off from KLIA2, was forced to head back to the airport after the pilot encountered "auto-thrust problems".

The plane, which was carrying 371 people, spent about four hours circling the Strait of Malacca to make it lighter for a safe landing before it touched down again at KLIA2.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said AirAsia X Flight D7172 experienced a "technical error" shortly after take-off at about 12.20pm yesterday.

It returned to the airport without incident at 5.40pm. The plane was supposed to have arrived in the Saudi Arabian city at 11.15pm.

"The error and cause is still being investigated. I have been told that those on board are safe.

"The pilot had to fly around for about four hours to burn the fuel to make the aircraft lighter so that it could land safely," Liow said.

All the passengers were transferred to another aircraft and left for Jeddah at about 7.30pm.

AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said in a text message to Bernama that it "was a normal routine return to base".

"It could have continued (its journey) to Jeddah, but we felt it was better for it to return, nothing out of the normal," he said.

This is the second incident involving an AirAsia flight in just over a month after the Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 tragedy on Dec 28.