Spirit Airlines passengers told to prepare for possible water landing after mechanical issue

May 28, 2024, 9:22 AM

A Spirit Airlines flight returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica after a suspected mechanical issue on its...

A Spirit Airlines flight returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica after a suspected mechanical issue on its way to Florida. (Bettina Rogers)

(Bettina Rogers)

(CNN)The cabin of a Spirit Airlines flight from Jamaica to Florida became a scene of panic and confusion Sunday when passengers were told to prepare for a possible water landing after the aircraft was turned around due to an apparent mechanical problem, a passenger told CNN.

The Airbus plane, which was headed to Fort Lauderdale, reversed course and safely returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica, “out of an abundance of caution following a suspected mechanical issue,” the airline said in a statement. The passengers were deplaned and later put on a different plane to reach their destination.

The incident happened after a record-breaking start to the holiday weekend for airline travel. The Transportation Security Administration announced it set a new record for most travelers screened in a single day on Friday, according to a post from the agency on X.

Passenger Bettina Rogers captured video of the plane’s takeoff in which a chiming signal can be heard twice in the cabin, though the meaning of the signal is unclear.

Video taken by passenger Bettina Rogers shows the cabin of a Spirit Airlines plane after it returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Sunday. ( Bettina Rogers)

Shortly after the signal, the pilot told passengers there was “nothing to be alarmed about,” Rogers said.

About five minutes later, the pilot informed passengers the plane needed to return to the Montego Bay airport, Rogers said. But as the plane turned back, she said, the pilot announced, “Prepare for emergency water landing.”

“It was scary, and people were freaking out and panicking,” Rogers said.

After the flight landed safely, the cabin was full of nervous chatter and orange life vests scattered the floor and seats as passengers walked off the plane, video taken by Rogers shows.

Passengers exited the plane “under normal procedures” and a new plane was arranged to take them to Fort Lauderdale, Spirit said in its statement. Rogers was able to make it safely to her destination in Atlanta.

“Safety is our top priority, and the aircraft will be thoroughly evaluated by our maintenance team,” the airline said. “We apologize to our Guests for any inconvenience.”

On Monday, a United Airlines flight aborted takeoff from Chicago O’Hare International Airport due to what the Federal Aviation Administration said was a reported engine fire.

Also Monday, a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Tampa, Florida, was diverted to Colorado Springs after the flight attendants reported “a possible smell of smoke in the cabin,” according to a Southwest statement.

“Southwest flight 1070 diverted safely” the airline said in a statement to CNN, apologizing for the inconvenience.

“The flight crew followed established procedures, landed the aircraft and safely deplaned customers and Crew,” the statement said.

Some travelers have expressed a growing sense of unease due to a handful of harrowing aircraft accidents and as well as a string of smaller mishaps and mechanical incidents on planes – mostly Boeing jets.

The midflight blowout of an Alaska Airlines plug door kicked off the year, which has also since seen several severe cases of turbulence, including on a Singapore Airlines flight from London last week that left one person dead and 71 injured.

A series of less severe mishaps have also drawn the attention of travelers and air safety regulators.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced in March that it’s taking a close look at United Airlines after nearly a dozen incidents on its Boeing jets, including a missing external panel, flames shooting from an engine after takeoff and a wheel popping off.

Though such incidents have raised concern, aviation experts have pointed out that commercial flights remain one of the safest ways to travel in the US. The last major fatal commercial plane accident in the United States was in 2009, and between 2010 and 2022, there have been five commercial flight accident deaths.

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Spirit Airlines passengers told to prepare for possible water landing after mechanical issue