A British Airways plane was forced to make an emergency landing last night after crew and passengers detected a “strange smell”.
The airline said the flight had returned to its departure point of London Heathrow following a “technical issue” onboard.
The Airbus A320 had taken off at 5.41pm from the west London hub, issuing a 7700 “squawk” (emergency alert around 10 minutes later), and circling around South London before landing around 40 minutes later.
While the exact nature of the technical fault is unknown, one passenger – off-duty pilot Sebastian Mezeret – took to Twitter to report that there were “strange smells” onboard the plane, also claiming that pilots were using oxygen masks.
“Current pax and happen to be [an] a320 pilot. Definitely strange smells. Pilots on oxygen masks,” he wrote.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Mezeret said that firefighters had met the aircraft on arrival. “Seems nothing too critical as pax still strapped in,” he added.
He commented that pilots had still been using oxygen masks, eventually coming on to the aircraft’s speaker system to tell passengers to disembark as normal.
Photos posted to social media show firefighters boarding the plane via a Heathrow airbridge, as well as fire and police vehicles on the airport tarmac.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “The aircraft landed normally after returning to Heathrow following reports of a technical issue. The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.”
They said that emergency services were stood down at 7pm, adding that a replacement aircraft was arranged for customers to travel to Nice shortly after the incident.
Emergency landings are fairly common occurrences, with pilots often playing it safe when any manner of technical fault is suspected onboard.
On 21 December, a Loganair flight from Aberdeen to Bristol made what the carrier called a “precautionary landing” at Manchester Airport due to an “indication fault”.
In September, A British Airways pilot bound for Rhodes had to perform an emergency landing in Athens because the plane’s windshield shattered mid-flight.
Meanwhile, a Qantas flight from Perth was forced to make an emergency landing when it was struck by lightning while mid-air in August.