Travelers aboard Thomas Cook Airlines flight MT2653 who experienced a nightmare takeoff last week say they feel “lucky to be alive” in the wake of the incident.
As the plane departed from Frank País Airport in Holguín, Cuba, en route to Manchester, England, passengers claim that the engine exploded just as the aircraft was about to lift off, Metro reports.
“If it had happened any later there would have been an explosion, we would have all been killed,” 64-year-old passenger Joseph Farnhill told the outlet of the Nov. 27 incident.
According to passengers accounts, the plane began to lurch as it increased speed down the tarmac, culminating in a loud bang as the engine combusted when the aircraft’s front wheel lifted off the runway.
“You saw the engine exploding, then the plane went down suddenly, and the engine was on fire, with sparks flying down towards the back of the plane,” passenger Brian Kennedy told The Sun.
"There was big orange flames coming out of the engine. We were in Row 32, right behind the engine,” 38-year-old traveler Christ Best added.
According to passenger Gareth Swan, the pilot dropped the plane straight down and hit the brakes as the aircraft skidded across the runway, per The Independent. The flight crew was also said to be “visibly distressed” as the pilot made an emergency announcement to the 300-plus passengers.
“As he came back on, you could hear that he was verbally shaken to the point where his voice cracked and he sounded like he was going to burst into tears,” Swan said. “At that point I realized it was very serious.”
Both Kennedy and Farnhill told the Sun that the passengers were then stuck on the Thomas Cook plane for four hours in what Farnhill described as “baking Caribbean temperatures” after the incident. They said they felt the airline poorly handled the situation, claiming that cabin crew let premium customers off first.
A Thomas Cook Airlines spokesperson confirmed that there were 310 passengers and 12 crew members aboard the aircraft, and released the following statement to Fox News:
“Flight MT2653 from Holguin, Cuba, to Manchester was scheduled to depart at 22:05 local time on Monday 27th November. Due to a technical engine issue, the captain aborted take-off on the runway and returned the aircraft to the stand where customers and crew disembarked. Our customers’ safety is always our first priority, and we are very sorry for the delay and inconvenience caused.”
“We arranged transport and hotel accommodation for all customers and a replacement aircraft returned all passengers from Holguin to Manchester on Wednesday 29th,” they added.
In accordance with EU law, all the passengers affected will receive 600 euro, or over $700, in compensation, but some feel that doesn’t cut it.
"I'm traumatized, I haven't slept the last few nights, as whenever I shut my eyes I just see fireballs like in a movie," Kennedy said.