Spirit Airlines Flight 779 from LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale had to be rerouted after passengers complained of a smell resembling “dirty socks.”
The flight was diverted to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after several passengers experienced burning throats and chest pains after noticing that an "odor developed in a section of the aircraft." The flight was carrying two-hundred-twenty passengers.
“Reports are we have several occupants on a plane exposed to an unknown substance,” Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue was heard saying. “They have deplaned and are currently on the ramp. We have isolated and are attempting to get in contact with the airport fire.”
Despite the fact that passengers detected the smell, there was no chemical substance found aboard the plane that could be linked to the medical complaints. “After specific monitoring and hazmat crews entering into the fuselage, no substances were found. The plane is all clear,” Myrtle Beach Fire Department Lt. Christian Sliker said.
Fire officials reported that seven to 10 passengers had been transported to an area hospital. Spirit Airlines said the source of the smell was still being investigated and although the rerouting of the plane was an inconvenience, the safety of the passengers was "paramount."
“A supplemental aircraft is en route to Myrtle Beach to pick up our guests,” Spirit Airlines said in a statement. The passengers waited on the tarmac in Myrtle Beach for the other plane to fly to Florida.
Passenger Steven Costello told WPLG-TV Miami that several children on the flight vomited and one woman fainted. “Real bad. You know when you burn a wire, like plastic? That kind of smell,” Costello said. “We got scared. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Maverick Hain, also a passenger, told Local 10 that he had developed a headache and brother had stomach pains. Another passenger, Amber Kogut, said passengers were fed Domino’s pizza while they waited for a supplemental plane to fly them to Florida. “It seems everyone is doing their best to make the best of the situation,” she said.
Passengers reported on Friday that Spirit had offered them a full refund. Airline spokesperson Derek Dombrowski added that they would also receive future travel credits.
According to the Association of Flight Attendants, “The aircraft air supply system can be a source of smoke/fumes when it gets contaminated with engine oil, hydraulic fluid, exhaust/fuel, deicing fluid, and ozone. Of these, oil and hydraulic fluid smoke/fumes are the most toxic. Oil fumes may smell like dirty socks. Other descriptions include musty/moldy, old cheese, chemicals, and even electrical-like.”