How a Florida-Bound Spirit Flight Was Almost Forced To Make a Water Landing on the Coast of Jamaica

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 29, 2024

The discount airline that recently made headlines for its poor handling of the Boeing whistleblower fiasco has made headlines again.

This time, guests on board a Spirit Airlines flight heading to Florida from Jamaica that had just taken off were told to prepare for a possible water landing. The aircraft was quickly turned around when the pilot discovered mechanical issues with the plane.

Airbus Headed to Fort Lauderdale

The Airbus was heading out of Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 26, when the pilot first noticed a “suspected mechanical issue” with the plane.

A white plane flying through a blue and cloudy sky

Source: Jimmy Chan/Pexels

Passengers say that an alarm sounded when the pilot came on the intercom and warned the guests that the flight may need to make an emergency water landing and to prepare by grabbing the emergency floatation devices below their seats. 

Chaos in the Cabin

Videos circulating online of the ordeal show a chaotic and unpleasant experience for the guests.

Spirit Airlines planes seen on an airport tarmac, as well as up in the air.

Source: Brice Cooper/Unsplash

Although the plan ultimately made it safely back to the airport in Montego Bay, many people said that they were scared for their safety.  CNN reached one passenger for comment who said that “It was scary, and people were freaking out and panicking.”

Guests Returned to Florida Safely Once Plane Was Grounded

After the plane grounded in Jamaica, Spirit Airlines secured a separate plane to reload the passengers and fly them safely, this time without any emergencies, to their final destination.

A close-up of a Spirit Airlines plane seen in the sky.

Source: Forsaken Films/Unsplash

Videos of the ordeal show life vests scattered on the floors and seats and crying guests waiting to make a dramatic exit from the plane. Thankfully, a water landing did not occur.

Spirit Airlines Makes a Public Statement

After stories of the terrifying ordeal began circulating on social media, the airline issued a statement.

A close up view of a green and yellow Spirit plane

Source: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons

A spokesperson said, “Safety is our top priority, and the aircraft will be thoroughly evaluated by our maintenance team.” They apologized for any inconvenience they caused the passengers on board. 

How Dangerous Are Water Landings?

Landings on solid ground in the case of an emergency are preferred. However, water landings might not be that dangerous for the passengers.

A large blue and red plane flying through the sky

Source: Gary Lopater/Unsplash

Generally, pilots take serious precautions to ensure that a water landing never occurs. When it does happen, however, guests can expect the most dangerous part of the landing to be the plane potentially flipping over. When this happens, passengers are not necessarily trapped. Floatation divides and slides can still be operated. In any case, emergency landings are terrible events and always have risks associated with them.


How Common Are Water Landings?

The Aviation Safety Network lists 312 forced emergency forced landings on water, which are often referred to as “ditching” the flight.

A small white float plane landing on a body of water in front of a forest with red foliage

Source: Julian Nortoft/Unsplash

Since the 1930s, when air travel became affordable, there have been a number of successful water landings in the United States.


Miracle on the Hudson

One common example of plane ditching that many people turn to when thinking about successful landings is the story of the Miracle on the Hudson.

A white plane slowly sinking in the water surrounded by emergency vehicles and boats with large buildings in the background

Source: @CockpitChatter/X

In 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 departed from LaGuardia when it lost all engine power. The Airbus A320 flew into a flock of geese, which caused the engine to malfunction and completely shut down.


A Successful Landing in New York Waters

The captain on board, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullengerger III attempted to reach LaGuardia’s air tower to notify them of the plane’s immediate return. However, without the proper engine power, the plane was only able to glide downwards without paper.

An aerial view of a large aviation museum with three large airplanes outside with people walking around

Source: @CLTAirport/X

Capt. Sullenberger attempted a risky water landing and notified his passengers of the risk. After three and a half minutes of gliding away from the city the plane was able to successfully land on the river.


What the Hudson Can Teach Other Pilots

The landing on the Hudson is a great example of a risky maneuver that saved countless lives. Only a few of the passengers were treated for hypothermia, and one flight attendant needed surgery due to a cut on her leg during the landing.

A group of passenger stand on the wings of a plane while it floats in water

Source: @JohnPompliano/X

While water landings can often be disastrous, the Miracle on the Hudson serves as a reminder that captains are trained for emergencies and can work through even the most difficult situations.


Spirit Airlines Was Recently Accused of Safety Flaws in Manufacturing

For the past few months, Boeing airplanes and Spirit Airlines have been embroiled in a strange whistleblower lawsuit.

A man works on two large engines inside of a workshop

Source: Hermeus/Unsplash

The two companies have been accused of using sub-standard parts and failing to complete adequate safety regulations on planes.


No Connection Is Currently Made Between the Emergency Landing and Allegations

So far, no one has made any allegations that Spirit may be operating one of the planes that failed to meet safety standards.

A yellow Spirit airplane flying at a low height over trees

Source: @thehill/X

Regardless, many frequent flyers say that they choose to avoid discount flights. Air travel safety has been a given for many years, but the whistleblower accusations serve as a stark reminder that protocols need to be constantly adhered to so that standards do not slip.