A British Airways plane travelling from London to Valencia, Spain was forced to make an emergency landing in the Spanish community of Manises on Tuesday, 6 August, after fire was detected in one of its engines, the Spanish newspaper El País reported, causing a large amount of smoke in cabin that prevented passengers from breathing normally.
“The flight was normal until they told us that there were 15 minutes to landing,” said one of the passengers, Mathew Haller, in a phone interview to El País on 7 August. “Five minutes later we saw smoke coming out, more and more of it. There was smoke everywhere and a very strong smell of burning metal. I thought it was a terrorist attack. No one told us anything. And the oxygen masks also didn’t drop down. There were people hitting above the compartment above them to see if they would drop down. But they didn’t. The flight attendants had them, however.”
The cabin was quickly filled with smoke which passengers were inhaling for the final 10 minutes of the flight and, according to Haller “couldn’t see anything”.
Moreover, the passenger noted that the only person who was helping everyone out and calming people down was another passenger with a bottle of water, who told passengers to wet their shirts and inhale through them in order to “breathe better”.
Out of 175 passengers - including one baby - who were on board, 3 were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation after the plane landed, according to El País.
However, when the media asked British Airways why oxygen masks weren't made available for the passengers, the representatives of the airline replied that “oxygen masks are only used in situations of cabin decompression. It is not standard protocol to use them when there is smoke in a cabin at low altitude”.
Nevertheless, they did not mention why the cabin crew was wearing oxygen masks during the emergency landing. Many passengers also complained on social media about British Airways' lack of action and clarity during the emergency.
British Airways is a prominent UK airline that normally enjoys a strong safety reputation, which nevertheless often experiences technical glitches and system failures. The most recent was on 7 August, with thousands of holidaymakers affected by hours of delays and flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick airport; some flights replacements could have to wait for up to a week, The Sun reported. British Airways also experienced major computer failures in 2017 that affected hundreds of flights worldwide.