Terrifying Mid-Air Ordeal: Spirit Airlines Passengers Brace for Water Landing During Pressurization Crisis?

On Sunday, May 26, 2024, Spirit Airlines flight NK270 from Montego Bay to Fort Lauderdale reportedly prepared for a ditching. The month-old Airbus A321neo took off from Jamaica at 1:24 p.m. but had a pressurization issue that was identified during the climb out. They halted their ascent at 5,000 feet and turned back towards the airport.

Passengers report being told of a loss of cabin pressure, and that they needed to prepare for a water landing. Cabin crew instructed them on how to brace for impact. Footage from inside the cabin shows passengers with life vests in hand.

Despite these preparations, the aircraft landed safely back at Montego Bay at 1:46 p.m., where it was met by emergency services. No injuries were reported among the passengers or crew.

The airport described the incident as involving “challenges” faced by the flight. Spirit Airlines has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the pressurization issue. The flight was canceled, and Spirit Airlines arranged for a replacement aircraft, another A321-200 with registration N686NK, to complete the trip – resulting in a delay of slightly over 7 hours.

Something is missing from this story. A loss of cabin pressure wouldn’t require an emergency landing on the water surface, so I wonder whether the issue was fuel pressure and not cabin pressurization?

Update: As I wrote, a loss of cabin pressure didn’t seem to make sense. Spirit Airlines confirms there was no pressurization issue, and a spokesperson adds,

Spirit Airlines flight 270 (MBJ-FLL) returned to Montego Bay (MBJ) on May 26 out of an abundance of caution following a suspected mechanical issue. The plane landed safely at MBJ and taxied to the terminal where Guests deplaned under normal procedures. Safety is our top priority, and the aircraft will be thoroughly evaluated by our maintenance team. We apologize to our Guests for any inconvenience, and we arranged a new aircraft to complete the flight to Fort Lauderdale (FLL).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Meanwhile , Jamaica , where the sun shines daily on the mountain top , and when I reached Jamaica I made a stop .

  2. Something’s wrong with this story. As an Airbus flight instructor, descending to 5000 feet MSL puts the aircraft 5000 feet below the minimum required altitude for supplemental oxygen. The pilots could have remained at 10,000 feet or slightly lower..say 9,000 feet MSL and been just fine for the 20 minutes back to the departure airport OR continuing to the next suitable airport. If the issue is indeed pressurization, then those pilots need serious re-training. If it was a fuel pressure issue, then investigators need to see if this pressure issue was both engines or just one engine. Both engines…that could be a major problem. However, they made it back to the departure airport just fine…thankfully.

  3. As @Win Whitmire said this was absolutely not.a cabin pressure issue. Fuel pressure sounds more likely – maybe someone fell for a game of telephone?

  4. No matter the reason, kudos to the crew for reacting correctly and preparing the cabin for the worst possibility. Better to prepare and not to be needed than shrug it off early and then rush as time runs out.

  5. To Ron: The captain would normally advise the flight attendants FIRST so that they can “quietly prepare” the cabin. Then, after preparations were made and the situation assessed, they would make the “ultimate” announcement to the passengers. The USAir arriving on the Hudson River was a NO TIME TO PREPARE situation as they were only a couple of thousand feet up. This flight was well above 10,000 feet. Panic is the LAST thing I would want for my passengers and cabin crew. Of course, none of us were there and MAYBE they did just that…investigation will decide.

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