Spirit Airlines passengers told “prepare for water landing” as A321 turns back

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock

Onboard a Spirit Airlines flight departing from Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica, passengers were instructed by crew to “prepare for a water landing” when the aircraft encountered a technical issue immediately after take-off. 

The incident, which took place on May 26. 2024, involved one of Sprit Airlines’ 103-strong fleet of Airbus A321neo aircraft – specifically, that registered N718NK, which was operating a scheduled service from Montego Bay (MBJ) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) as flight NK270. 

The aircraft had departed the gate at Montego Bay and proceeded to taxi to runway 07 at the airport. Having taken off at 13:24 local time, the aircraft initially climbed to 5,000ft (3,125m) only to halt its ascent at that height at 13:27. The crew then notified air traffic controllers that the plane had suffered a technical issue and needed to make an immediate return to the airfield.  


According to reports, following an audible ‘double chime’ heard over the aircraft’s public address system as the plane lifted off, passengers were initially told by the pilot that there was a “mechanical issue” but that there was “nothing to be alarmed about”. However, about five minutes later, passengers were told that the aircraft had “lost pressure” on take-off, and all those onboard the flight were instructed to prepare for “a possible water landing.”  

Photos and videos from the flight posted on social media showed passengers removing life vests from under the passenger seats. Having completed one left-hand circuit of the airport, the flight landed back on runway 07 at 13:47, just 19 minutes after take-off.  

The airport authority informed local media that the flight had experienced “challenges”. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines announced that an investigation into the incident had already begun, its findings to be published upon completion. The airline added that the “mechanical issue did not affect flight safety” and that the emergency landing instructions were given “out of an abundance of caution”. 

A replacement A321-200, registered N686NK, reached Fort Lauderdale later that same day, to fly the passengers to Fort Lauderdale after a delay of about seven hours and 15 minutes. In the meantime, the original plane involved in the incident, N718NK, returned to Fort Lauderdale on May 27, 2024, and has since completed rotations to Chicago (ORD) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) without further incident. 

N718NK is barely a month old, having been delivered to Spirit Airlines from Airbus’ Hamburg assembly plant on April 23, 2024.  

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