Thomas Cook Airlines plane landing
Credit: Juha Remes/Getty Images

Passengers on a flight from Cuba to the U.K. had a close call when their plane’s engine exploded just before takeoff.

At Frank País Airport in Holguín on November 27, passengers boarded the Thomas Cook flight to Manchester as normal, but things took a turn for the worse just as the plane was about to lift off the runway.

One passenger, 64-year-old Joseph Farnhill, told Metro he was “lucky to be alive.”

“If it had happened any later there would have been an explosion, we would have all been killed,” Farnhill said.

According to passenger descriptions of the ordeal, the plane jerked around as it gained speed down the runway, lifting slightly off the ground. People could hear loud bangs when the engine exploded and the passengers tried to stay away from smoke.

“You saw the engine exploding, then the plane went down suddenly, and the engine was on fire, with sparks flying down towards the back of the plane,” passenger Brian Kennedy told The Sun.

Passengers noticed that the pilot, who reacted quickly to stop the plane, was (understandably) upset by incident. One passenger told The Independent that he was “verbally shaken to the point where his voice cracked and he sounded like he was going to burst into tears.” The rest of the flight crew, according to witnesses, were also naturally distressed.

Some passengers also claimed that the gate agents were not quick enough to get people off the plane, to the point where some became ill or even fainted due to lack of air, however Thomas Cook disputes this claim.

A spokesperson for the airline said in a statement: “Due to a technical engine issue, the captain aborted takeoff on the runway and returned the aircraft to the stand where customers and crew disembarked. Our customers’ safety is always our first priority, and we are very sorry for the delay and inconvenience caused...we arranged transport and hotel accommodation for all customers and a replacement aircraft returned all passengers from Holguin to Manchester on Wednesday.”

Passengers are being given €600 (just over $711) as compensation.