A United Airlines B777 was diverted to the small Pacific island of Midway Thursday night after a burning smell filled the cabin. The smell arose over the island over one of the most remote areas to fly over in the world. United Airlines has said that it was a mechanical issue, but they are declining to comment any further.
It is likely that the issue could have been more serious than just a simple mechanical issue. It also caused quite a scare for the passengers on board. According to Teresita Smith, a passenger from Maryland who was on board the flight with 25 family members, “The smell was getting stronger…it smelled like something burning.”
Initially, the flight had been delayed for departure from Honolulu because of the odor. However, the flight was later cleared for the 8-hour flight to Guam. The flight was initially delayed for 3 hours.
According to Smith, five hours into the flight, the odor came back and began impacting the flight. Smith said, “In the back section of the plane alarms were going off.” After the pilot announced that they would be diverting to Midway, the plane had a sudden drop, which scared the passengers on board.
Upon arrival, the passengers spent six hours in an old gymnasium on an abandoned military base. Locals on the island brought food for the passengers. Smith said, “These people brought all the food they had to us” adding that the passengers were very appreciative for the feature.
The plane remains on the island of Midway. The passengers still have not received their luggage because the locals did not have any way to get the luggage from the plane.
The passengers were offered a $500 voucher from United, but many had still not arrived in Guam as of publishing.
Midway serves as an emergency landing zone for flights flying over the Pacific, although it is very rarely used.