Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale fills with smoke, returns to Cuba

Fort Lauderdale, FLA – Passengers of a Southwest Airlines flight headed to Fort Lauderdale received quite a scare on Sunday.

The flight that took off from Havana, Cuba was forced to turn around and make an emergency landing after the plane’s right engine caught fire.

“I felt a jolt and heard what sounded like an explosion,” said Jorge in Spanish, who only wanted to be identified by his first name. “I looked out the window and I saw the engine on fire.”

At one point during the panic, Jorge said he messaged his wife with words expressing his love.

According to Southwest officials, the engine was hit by birds shortly after takeoff.

Smoke filled the plane, and video taken from inside captured passengers as they covered their faces with the overhead oxygen masks that had come down.

Southwest Airlines released a statement that read, in part:

“We realize this occurrence was unusual and may have been unsettling... Southwest is working with the local officials with regard to this event and remains steadfastly focused on the safety of our customers and crews.”

Jorge was one of several passengers who was able to get seats on a competing airline Sunday to continue on the same-day journey to FLL.

The rest of the passengers were given hotel rooms in Havana, Cuba and rebooked on flights for Monday.

The affected passengers will also receive a $300 voucher from Southwest Airlines because of the in-air emergency.

Jorge credits the pilots for safely landing the aircraft.

About the Author:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.