Terrified passengers screamed in fear as a Jet2 aircraft carrying 250 people from Tel Aviv to Manchester last week plunged thousands of feet after the cabin suddenly lost pressure.
The aircraft, a Boeing 757-200, was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
One passenger, Marc Baer, 24, from Prestwich, Lancs, suffered a panic attack and was helped by a doctor and cabin crew until the plane landed.
He said: “It was extremely frightening and it went through my mind that we were about to crash.
“We were about two hours into the flight and everything was normal, when there was some turbulence. Suddenly, the plane dropped very quickly and sharply, the cabin crew were shouting that there was an emergency and the oxygen masks dropped down.”
Mr Baer had been on a week’s holiday in Tel Aviv with his 22-year-old brother and their parents.
“I must have suffered some sort of panic attack because I was having difficulty breathing. A doctor on board left his seat with his family to sit with me, along with the cabin crew. I didn’t find out his name so I want to thank him through the JC because he really helped me. The cabin crew were very calm and professional and helped me and everyone else,” Mr Baer said.
“People were screaming and it was very scary. We have done a lot of travelling but I have never experienced anything like that before. Jet2 flew out a replacement aircraft and crew, but we were scared to get on. The cabin crew explained again what had happened and reassured us that we would get home safely.”
Another passenger, Jennifer Cooke of Alwoodley, Leeds, also praised the professionalism of the crew but raised questions about the state of the aircraft. She claimed the plane had not been cleaned before it left Israel, the tannoy system could not be heard clearly and that the aircraft was old.
Passengers were stranded in Budapest for 17 hours. Eventually, they were taken to a hotel and given a meal, but many of the strictly Orthodox passengers could eat only fruit.
The budget airline sent out another plane to fly them to Manchester in the early afternoon, a few hours before Shabbat.
The transport authorities of Britain, Israel and Hungary are trying to establish the exact cause of the problem in the air pressure system and whether Jet2 followed all the maintenance and operating guidelines.
A spokesperson for the airline said: “The Jet2.com flight from Tel Aviv to Manchester was diverted to Budapest due to a cabin pressure issue.
“Despite visa problems for some of the passengers with passports from outside the EU, Jet2.com was able to liaise closely with airport authorities to ensure that everyone could spend the night in a local hotel.”
She added: “Jet2.com takes customer safety and comfort very seriously.”