In the case of flight MH370, I think passengers on board would have long enough time to realise that something is wrong with their flight. I have a habit of carrying a compass with me when I travel abroad. If the plane is not heading in the general direction towards its destination once it reaches cruising altitude, then I would be worried. This is especially so for passengers on board flight MH370 when it appears that it is flying in the opposite direction for a very long time.
What can a passenger do if he realises that the plane is not flying in the right path, i.e. a possible suicide mission or hijack?
Not only do most people have no clue about that direction they're supposed to be flying, the number of people alerting the crew of "wrong directions" from those that do and get nervous when the plane diverts to avoid a thunderstorm or simply switches to another airway that diverts from the direct course would quickly make the crew ignore any and all such comments from passengers.
Which is no doubt one of the reasons they don't like passengers using handheld GPS devices (quite apart from the blanket ban on anything that has an antenna).
Okay, so, going with the idea that you have a compass (and also with the idea that this can be a general question, not necessarily about flight MH370). If you're heading from Tokyo, Japan to Seattle, Washington, USA (direct), then you could be reasonably certain the craft should be somewhere between headings 45 and 135. So if you notice the craft is on a heading of 270 (ie., clearly you're going in the opposite direction) and this direction has been sustained for say, an hour, I'd think it would be okay to at least ask the cabin crew what's going on.
As with any time you are raising a concern with the cabin crew, you should be polite. As has been stated, they are used to passengers being a bit nervous and, as a result, they can easily interpret belligerence as a sign of irrational fear. And, as you might guess, it's easy to ignore someone if you feel they are being irrational. So, if you want be taken seriously, be polite. You're far more likely to get an actual answer, or raise a valid concern even.
So, if you just ask, "why are we headed west instead of east" they may have a very simple answer like, "well, the pilot mentioned we might have to take an odd route to avoid some weather" or "this is the flight to Bombay India, how did you get on it?" Or, they may have no idea and be concerned themselves, so they go and ask their superior. Thus, goal achieved, you've alerted the flight crew :).
Either way, so long as you're polite and don't become insistent (or belligerent) that you are correct, I can't see any harm in just asking. And sometimes asking is what leads to a problem being solved so... I'd say go for it.
I concur with others that most passengers have no clue.
I flew from Toronto to Seoul. The flight headed northeast, paralleled the east coast of Ellsmere Island with Greenland visible off the right side, then on into the Arctic, making land over Siberia somewhere, further over Ulan Bator, across China and into Seoul. The north pole was always in the left hand semicircle RELATIVE BEARING. This was all due to the winds aloft on that day. This was always visible on the plane's installed in-flight information system. Perfectly normal flight. To a non-experienced aviator, this would seem like a nonsensical route possibly indicating a hijack situation, and fuel a lot of worry. Cabin crew should respond to questions of course, but in most cases there is no cause to worry. So I too have a concern that a passenger having convinced him/herself that the plane is off course will do something to jeopardize the safety of the plane, crew, and passengers.
In the case of flight MH370, I think passengers on board would have long enough time to realise that something is wrong with their flight. I have a habit of carrying a compass with me when I travel abroad. If the plane is not heading in the general direction towards its destination once it reaches cruising altitude, then I would be worried. This is especially so for passengers on board flight MH370 when it appears that it is flying in the opposite direction for a very long time. What can a passenger do if he realises that the plane is not flying in the right path, i.e. a possible suicide
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When flying on a long-haul airliner flight in economy, often you find it very hard to fall asleep (at least I do). However, when off cockpit duties, they still have to get rest so that they are able to control the aircraft without being exhausted and collapsing on the controls when they are on duty. Are there are any specific methods of helping pilots to gain the rest required on board an aircraft? Has there been any studies about the effectiveness of these?
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