RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A Southwest flight was diverted from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, leaving passengers stranded with no information or food in a closed Myrtle Beach airport overnight — along with a full plane of fellow travelers.
The 9-hour ordeal involving Southwest flight 3094 included three passengers vomiting as the plane shook “like crazy,” recounted one North Carolina couple on board. Another person, the couple said, had a panic attack and passed out on the plane amid its wild approach into Raleigh — which was aborted at the last second at 1,350 feet, according to flight data.
“It was quite a horrifying experience. We go to land in Raleigh and the plane starts shaking like crazy. Then they decide to tell us 15 minutes later we are going to Myrtle Beach,” said Nicholas Reed, who was traveling with his girlfriend Krys Spence.
On Friday night, a Southwest official at the Myrtle Beach International Airport said the plane had been diverted because weather issues caused the jet to experience a low-fuel situation.
The passengers from the full Boeing 737 got safely on the ground at Myrtle Beach, but were held on the plane for two hours before they were finally set free inside the closed airport for nearly four hours, the couple said.
But once in the airport, the ordeal was far from over, Spence and Reed said.
“We couldn’t go anywhere because they wouldn’t give us our luggage,” Reed said. “One group of guys found a bar and went behind it and just started pouring themselves drinks — because there was no security.”
The long travel day for Spence and Reed began when they were supposed to leave Baltimore for Raleigh-Durham around 7 p.m. Friday. Instead, the Southwest plane sat idling for 40 minutes with the engines running, burning fuel.
Finally, around 7:40 p.m. the jet took off. Around 9 p.m., the plane was nearing Raleigh.
“Coming into Raleigh they started landing like normal. We had the window open in our seat so we could actually see the ground,” said Reed.
“The wings were flapping. They were shaking,” Spence said.
“Two people were vomiting pretty close to us. But everyone was pretty silent. I guess they were just in suspense like ‘this could be it’,” Reed said.
However, Southwest flight 3094 ended up landing far from Raleigh.
“Fifteen minutes go by, and the captain comes back on and says ‘Hey, we are going to be in Myrtle Beach in 25 minutes.’ We were like ‘what?’” said Reed.
According to flight tracking site FlightAware, as the plane approached Raleigh-Durham, the jet’s altitude dropped as low as 1,350 feet.
Southwest Airlines said in a statement Saturday:
“We made the decision to safely divert Southwest flight 3094 (BWI – RDU) to MYR due to weather conditions at RDU. We brought in another crew and aircraft to transport the passengers to their final destination as soon as we were able to safely do so.”
Spence said passengers were told another plane was on its way to Myrtle Beach to take them to Raleigh.
“Then that captain and our flight attendants all leave, and we get stuck in the airport. There were no vending machines in the entire terminal. Of course, all of the restaurants were closed down,” Reed said.
Finally, they say sometime after 1 a.m. an empty plane from Baltimore came and eventually flew everyone to Raleigh.
“When we got back here to Raleigh, 4 a.m., so, it was a really terrible experience. They didn’t offer us meal vouchers or anything. I was like, we fly Southwest all the time,” said Reed.
Southwest Airlines also said:
“We apologize for the inconvenience and encourage passengers to reach out to our customer relations team with any concerns.”