This British Airways Pilot Is A Jerk…

Filed Under: British Airways, Videos

Audio is going (somewhat) viral of an air traffic control exchange from a few days ago. The exchange is between a Dublin air traffic controller and a British Airways pilot who isn’t pleased with how he’s being treated. I think the audio speaks for itself:

Yow, that guy seems like a bundle of joy to work with.

However, when it comes to air traffic control audio, I don’t think anything can ever compare to this exchange between JFK and an Air China pilot:

I don’t envy the job of air traffic controllers!

  1. Whew, that JFK Air China exchange was very scary indeed. Well done on the ATC’s part. Hopefully this type of lapse in communication in this instance has been reported in order to prevent it happening again…

  2. Sounds like the CI pilot needs a few English comprehension lessons.

    And yes that BA captain is a flaming dick.

    @David China Airlines is not Chinese

  3. ATCs are supposed to be well organised and calm. The pilots trust them with their lives and the lives in board. So he was completely fair given that this ATC couldn’t even handle 15 planes. Getting conflicting info is the worst thing that can happen as a pilot. The ATC was a bit of a lemon

  4. Yeah that guy was a jerk. The Air China one is scary. Could you imagine if they were departing and they canceled a takeoff to avoid a collision. I could just hear the air controller yelling abort take off and the Air China pilot saying Air China 981 taking off. I mean its funny in one way…but in another way its a serious safety hazard.

  5. @Phoenix this was not China Airlines (Taiwan, which by the way is ethnically Chinese and is officially the republic of China), this was Air China which is a Chinese airline. @Kyle if the pilots commented on the guy being a dick…he was a dick.

  6. @Phoenix – You are mistaken not Dave. The last clip is indeed Air China (CA) the Chinese carrier, not China Airlines (CI). The flight number confirms this – CA981 is Air China’s flight from Beijing to JFK, while CI981 is from Kaohsiung to Hong Kong!

  7. I don’t think many people read the content of your post, as they’re obsessing with Air China and JFK.

    On point: The male BA pilot trying to crap on the female Dublin controller because the Dublin controller was doing her job? That was embarrassing for BA. Talk about passive-aggressive arrogance. Hopefully BA counsels that pilot.

  8. I’ve listened to this a couple times now and I think the ground controller is incorrect in stating she tried to call the Speedbird and he didn’t respond. It sounds like she gave clear instructions for pushback, Speedbird acknowledged and then she went against her previous instruction and cleared the Aer Lingus plane. When she got called out she changed her story. Yes the BA pilot should have kept his cool but the controller appears to be at fault here. This is assuming the recording hasn’t been edited in any way.

  9. English could be a problem for Chinese pilot. One question I wonder, what is the language being used for Chinese domestic flight? English? Chinese?

  10. @Bin, both. Mainly Chinese, but many airlines also have foreign crew, so it’s not uncommon to see English as well

  11. I’ll side with the British Airways pilot filing a safety report. Aviation demands high standards. Period. The BA pilot is obligated to file the report in this case. It’s the up to the safety authorities to review this particular event and determine if any procedures were amiss. Standard operating procedure, happens every day. I’m more shocked at the other pilots’ brief quips. Not a good sign. The BA pilot sounds like he should be: strictly professional.

  12. “Dublin Ground: I was trying to call your sir, you weren’t listening out…”

    Did anyone hear Dublin Ground calling out to Speedbird that Shamrock needed to give way (before it happened)? Maybe I missed it…

  13. That video made me smile. Firstly the professionalism of (mostly) all involved, and how the other pilots supported the air traffic controller was heartwarming. Kudos!

  14. @Charles: Taiwan is only recognized as an independent state (ROC) by about 20 nations in the UN.So, depending on who one talks to, Air China and China Airlines are both in fact Chinese in context that they originate to the PRC.

  15. Hum… re the Chinese pilot:

    1. since when short means before? Standard English should be mandatory from the controller.

    2. and why does the airport controller ignore if the airport has cleared the gate? Airport is airport, no?

    3. when and if China becomes world’s largest economy, will the American pilots need to learn Chinese? Will be fun to watch youtube.

  16. Holy crap. This is another aspect where PC bs has crept in. They should pass have to pass TSE before they are allowed to fly to the usa.

    Test of spoken English. Graduate students have to give it to get teaching positions.

  17. Air China ≠ China Airlines, who is CI

    And for all intents and purposes, I’d refer to them as Taiwanese, not Chinese.

  18. @Kyle the ATC was the most calm and most professional inmate in the asylum from what I’m hearing. Do you blame Obama for the anger in the Tea Party Conservative right?

    @Samantha CI originates in the ROC, not the PRC, therefore Taiwanese.

  19. How in the world do they understand each other? I can’t imagine how they do it. I know context is probably 90% of it, but still.

  20. @Daniel Desjardins:
    1. Since always. Holding short is proper English to start with (though not used all that often as commonly spoken), but is used EXTREMELY commonly at airports. Just as in any technical field, there is jargon that needs to be understood. Holding short, i.e. before a runway or intersection is an incredibly important one to know.

    2. No, ‘the airport is not the airport’. ATC doesn’t clear planes to the ramp, largely because there’s a good chance they can’t even see the ramp properly to do so. This is why the ATC is asking the pilot if he’s been cleared to the ramp. Typically they wouldn’t have to ask as they’d just move to the ramp once cleared, but the ATC is probably trying to figure out why the plane is still sitting there and not at a ramp.

    3. Sure, but until Chinese (and which Chinese language is that?) becomes the lingua franca of the world, aircraft operations will be conducted in English. If a Saudi plane, German plane, Chinese plane, and a Australian plane are all trying to land at Delhi at around the same time, they’re going to be communicating in the only language they’ll all likely understand, which is English.

  21. Hmm, the BA guy sure is not too nice but the hype seems a bit exagerated, doesn’t it? Had this exchange happened between a guest and staff at a Hilton front desk, we wouldn’t think about it for a second.

  22. Anyone suggesting the BA pilot was being a jerk has a severe case of their head up their own backside. There was confusion and it’s the ATC job to ensure that doesn’t happen, regardless of how busy the airport maybe. That other pilots a would snicker or even comment about the supposed “good job” the ATC is doing is unprofessional.

  23. So Lucky, when did you acquire your ATPL or ATCO ratings qualifying you to rate the British Airways Pilot “a jerk” ?

    The Ground Controller failed in her duty to maintain separation between two aircraft by approving the push of both the BA A320 and the Stobart ATR which put them on converging paths. The BA pilot was correct to question and challenge the instructions which she attempted to cover up with with the lie that she had tried contacting him, which she clearly had not. She had let the situation run away from her and created a loss of separation and potential for a collision. The British Airways Pilot was therefore correct to advise he was filing a report; whether flight crew or ATC., it is better to be advised at the time by the other party whilst the occurrence is fresh in the mind, than find out days or weeks later and be required to try and recall the event for your own report of events.

    The response of the various Ryanair pilots was infantile and should perhaps have been the focus of your article; perhaps their idea of safety is somewhat less important. I know whose aircraft I would rather be flying on.

  24. The contoller made a mistake but the BA pilot was a jerk. Being passive-agressive (composed and civilized?) does not make you polite and that is something that, unfortunately, tends to be line of thought in the UK. He has every right to (and should) file a safety report, but such comments are unecessary on a line that is already busy, by making these, he is compromising safety himself!

  25. What a silly, sensationalist post. The BA pilot sounded professional throughout and the tape has almost certainly been edited.

  26. I am a commercial pilot and I dont think the pilot was at all being unreasonable. He requested engine start and pushback clearance which was given. Then the ground crew stopped pushback due to another aircraft pushing in. The controller should have notified the pilot in command of the British Airways aircraft that another aircraft was now going to taxi beforehand. When a pilot makes a slight error Air Traffic Control normally are always quick to correct pilots. The British Airways pilot was by no means aggressive he was just letting know the controller of his frustration. If you are given a clearance and you start your engines, the clearance should be honored that’s it. There is no need to sit at the ramp burning unnecessary fuel.

  27. @Alpha,
    Do you, for all intent and purpose, refer to yourself as South Carolinian, not American?
    For goodness sake, South Carolina and the other confederate states lost the civil war long ago! Wake up and stop living in the former “glory” of your slave master ancestors.

    Similarly, people of Taiwan call their airlines China Airlines, because they consider themselves Chinese and regard Taiwan as a part of China. Granted, the chinese civil war is not over yet, but it will one day be over in favor of union rather than separation, just as the American civil war has ended that way.

    Btw, for all intesnt and purpose, what you would or would not regard really doesn’t matter. It’s what 1 billion Chinese people (including the Chinese residing in Taiwan) regard, that matters. You are a nobody 🙂

  28. @phoenix Taiwan is part of the PRC, nothing you can do to stop that. Stop spreading these rumors around okay

  29. Air China ≠ China Airlines

    Air China (AC) is a Chinese airline, based in mainland, China.
    China Airlines (CI) is a Chinese airline, based in Taiwan, China.

    Why do the Chinese in Taiwan (i.e. the Taiwanese), call their airline “China Airline”?
    That’s because the Taiwanese regard themselves as Chinese and their Island, Taiwan, as part of China!

    Why do the Chinese in the mainland call their airline “Air China”?
    That’s because the first choice “China Airline” has already been claimed by those in Taiwan, China.

    Now of course, not all Taiwanese think that way. Some Taiwanese, for example, regard themselves as Japanese because Japan invaded and colonized Taiwan for 50 years – so these Taiwanese say “hey, while Spanish colonists and French colonists and British colonists killed native men and raped native women, the Japanese colonists are unique among all colonists! That is, they are the one and only colonists in the entire history of humankind that didn’t kill and didn’t rape! It was my grandma who willingly enrolled to become a mililtary prostitute of the Japanese Imperial Army (go google “comfort woman”, “japan” “ww2″) – our grandmas love being prostitutes…, we are Japanese, not Chinese… blah blah blah”.
    And all milder variants, such as, “we are taiwanese, not chinese…” etc.

    But, alas, all keyboard warriors… as are their ignorant foreign sympathiser and supporters (such as @ALPHA and the likes). Geez, why hide behind the keyboard? The Confederate States didn’t hide behind the keyboard! They fought for separatism (and lost!) So, @ALPHA and his/her kind, should emulate – ask your government, be it USA or otherwise, to fight for Taiwan’s independence. I thought you guys have more nuclear weapons than all other nuclear-armed countries combined?

    Talk is cheap. it’s like mental masturbation. @ALPHA and his/her kind, their verbal support is simply scoffed at. Nobody really show you any respect for that. So, urge your government to fight someone else’s war, to “liberate” Taiwan. Until you and your government take some concrete action to help your ally declare independence, Taiwan is, and will be, a part of China and Taiwanese are of course Chinese, and China Airlines / Air China are, most certainly, both Chinese airlines…

    …for all intent and purpose 🙂

  30. @Alex,
    Taiwan is NOT part of PRC. PRC (which governs mainland, china) and ROC (which governs taiwan, china) are both political entity (and enemies of each other). But this Island, Taiwan, and this land, mainland, are both part of China. That’s why the ROC government calls its national airline CHINA AIRLINES, and the PRC government calls its national airlines AIR CHINA. Now, of course, some Taiwanese would beg to differ. It’s their right. They are free to go to Japan to be Japanese citizens, or USA to become US citizens.

  31. The CA audio further deters me from wanting to fly with them.

    I think China Airlines is called as such because of agreements between the PRC and the ROC that dont allow Taiwan to refer to themselves as such in any official capacity.

    Regardless, I wouldnt refer to China Airlines or EVA air as Chinese airlines but as Taiwanese airlines instead since that’s where their base is and that they fly under the Taiwanese flag.

    I’d much rather fly CI/BR than MU/CA/CZ/MF

  32. @SCnoAmerican – What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you bringing up the Civil War? What on Earth does that have to with the subject being discussed?

  33. As a pilot, I see that the ATC issued clearance to another traffic, an ATR, to wait for BA. They didnt wait, and they (ATRR) were to blame. When the BA pilot understood, he gave the ATC no more hard time.
    Mistakes like this are not taken lightly, as they cause incidents and accidents now and then. I dont see neighter the ATC or the BA pilot being too rude. Both pretty professional.

    As far as the chineese pilots go… Jesus christ, they are annoying to have on your frequency. So much confusion and misunderstandings… When will they ever learn?

  34. So to clarify my position on this whole Chinese/Taiwanese debate. Ethnically they are all Chinese. Samantha brought up the 22 countries that recognize Taiwan. Technically the US is not one of them. Yet we still sell them billions in military equipment. You can argue names all you want but Taiwan is not part of the PRC. The PRC has 0 authority in Taiwan. The ROC is 100% autonomous and independent. I get China does not want to admit that. But go tell a ROC citizen they belong to the mainland and see what happens. Why do you think think Taiwan has a large military and we provide them so much support. I know way off topic for travel. But Taiwan is not like Hong Kong. It’s not a special administrative area.

  35. Dublin ATC forgot that Nigel is always right. There was no risk to safety as ground crew already knew that they cannot push back unless Nigel want to use reverse thrusters.

  36. @SCnotAmerican

    You aptly describe yourself by degrading Alpha. in these sentences.
    “Talk is cheap. it’s like mental masturbation.”

    You should not bring in politics into a travel blog and try to confuse more people than there are already been.
    The Chinese live in Taiwan do NOT all want to become part of Mainland China. If they can have a vote like the Brexit now, I would wager to say the vote would be landslide to stay INDEPENDENT – the word the Mainland China government hates the most.

    Hong Kong has no choice because it is a territory that the Brits returned it to Mainland China after the “leased land” which is Kowloon and New Territory, from the “Opium Treaty” ended. Hong Kong cannot survive by its own as a tiny island. You do know Hong Kong itself is an island, right?

    Given an option, most old time Hongkongers would prefer live under the British flag, colonial notwithstanding as they have all the civil rights except voting when under British ruling. Who needs voting right when the government does a good job taking care of its people? The Mainlanders supposedly have their voting rights, but look at how they are treated by their government?

    If Mainland China is so desirable, why Lang Lang, the talented and famed pianist decided to migrate to Hong Kong and became a Hong Kong Citizen, holding a HKSAR passport instead of the “red book”? (Mainlander’s passport is burgandy color, HKSAR is blue, like the US one.)

    Ethnicity does not equate Nationality. On top of that, given the huge differences between the mainland China and Taiwan, it is to everybody’s good except those have special agenda, to separate the 2 entities simply by referring one is China one is Taiwan. Therefore, CA is China, and CI is Taiwan. While they both have China in their names, they are vastly different.

    I would fly CI at a heartbeat now their safety records are much much better than decades ago (when the airlines was run largely by folks from the military).

    I would avoid CA longhaul as much as possible even before hearing this scary exchange between the pilot and the JFK ATC.. Flew them once longhaul IAH-PEK in their F, they did not even load meals for us, just 2 of us being their only passengers in the cabin! The FA told us she would not give us the menu as none would be available. They gave us options of something that no doubt sourced from the business class, and was only one each… Exceptionally UNPROFESSIONAL cabin crew thru out the flight. There are good reasons why award seats on CA are almost always available! The shorthaul PEK-KWL was uneventful despite the terrible delay at PEK though the delay was not the airlines fault but the multiple factors of weather and military air space control.

  37. My wife is Chinese (PRC) and directs me to avoid booking Air China (and other PRC airlines) when at all possible for reasons like this…(we have flown it intra-China) She has seen the other side and likes it better… We have flown EVA (a Tawianese airline) and she considers that a “Western” airline and Air China not. I have asked her to consider Hainan as I have heard good things from Lucky about it, but she doesn’t buy it…

  38. If you listen to the Dublin recording, there is a fair amount of heterodyne, which any pilot or ATC can tell you makes it impossible for anyone to understand what is being said. The ATR might have been transmitting “ground, we passed our a/c” while the controller was telling BAW to hold, and all BAW hears is a warbling noise on their radio. This is one of the issues that led up to the Tenerife disaster.

  39. is it just me or did others find their accents a tad thick?
    I would imagine that on an international platform, air traffic controllers should compose their accents, enunciate clearly and speak slightly slower.

  40. @ dmodemd: There is really not much evidence to support that mainland Chinese airlines are unsafe. These are huge airlines, with thousands of flights daily, and their safety records are totally up to par with U.S. or European airlines. The service, of course, is a different story.

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