Southwest airlines flight makes emergency landing in Cuba after suspected “bird strikes”

A Southwest Airlines flight bound for Florida made an emergency landing in Cuba Sunday after a suspected bird strike caused smoke to pour into the passenger cabin, the airline said. 

Southwest flight 3923 departing from Havana, Cuba, to Fort Lauderdale “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose shortly after takeoff,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement to USA TODAY. 

“The Pilots safely returned to Havana where the 147 Customers and six Crew evacuated the aircraft via slides due to smoke in the cabin,” the airline added. “The Customers and Crew were bussed to the terminal upon arrival yesterday where medical staff assessed some minor injuries.”

Cuban air officials said the Boeing 747 returned to the airport at around noon local time Sunday. 

Video captures harrowing moments inside plane

Videos from inside the cabin posted to social media showed a measure of panic among some passengers as the plane made its harrowing descent.

Passengers inside the cabin can be heard coughing and complaining about the thick smoke. Oxygen masks dangled over some seats. 

A man can be heard instructing passengers over the intercom. 

“When we land please do not become desperate,” the man says. “Cover yourselves with your clothes.” 

“Nobody could breathe…It was burning so much in the lungs,” Marco Antonio, a passenger, told NBC News. “People were just screaming.”

Antonio said passengers pleaded for oxygen masks to be deployed.

Southwest said it issued customers refunds, and was working Monday to put passengers on alternative flights to Fort Lauderdale.

Technicians were still assessing damage to the aircraft Monday, the airline said.  

Dig Deeper