Reprinted from KSAT 12 News
United Airliner Had To Return To SA Airport After Chemical Smell
SAN ANTONIO — Investigators with the San Antonio Fire Department and United Airlines continue to search for the cause of a chemical odor that forced a Houston-bound flight to make an emergency landing.
Rich Johnson, public relations director for San Antonio International Airport, said the United plane, which was listed as Continental flight 007, had taken off just before 9 a.m. The two airlines recently merged, which is the reason both names were affiliated with the flight.
“I believe it was in flight no more than 20 minutes,” Johnson said. “The flight from here to Houston is only 45 minutes, so it was before that halfway point.”
The flight was carrying 151 passengers and crew members at the time, a spokeswoman said.
“We had five people complaining of symptoms,” said Deborah Foster, spokeswoman for the San Antonio Fire Department. “We’re not sure whether those were related to the smell within the cabin or just the stress of the incident itself.”
Foster said most of those people were evaluated by paramedics at the scene. One was taken to an area hospital. However, Foster said, it did not appear anyone was seriously hurt.
Passengers, however, were delayed for several hours by the odor with a source that is still a mystery.
Elaine Fetterman, who was heading to Houston to connect to a flight to New Jersey, said a flight attendant announced the trouble over the plane’s loud speaker.
“We were up front and they announced that there was an odor in the back of the aircraft that was making people sick,” Fetterman said.
While she said she didn’t smell much of an odor where she sat, other passengers did.
“It was horrible,” said Araceli Cavazos. “It was not a pleasant smell, but a very different smell.”
Others, including Yuliana Ramirez, were more specific, describing it as an odor similar to burning plastic.
“We couldn’t tell what it was,” Ramirez said. “They checked the luggage; they checked everything. We all just went outside.”
After deplaning, most passengers were loaded onto buses, where they waited about two hours for fire investigators to determine the area was safe.
A little after noon, the passengers were led back into the airport terminal, where most waited in line again to be booked onto another flight.