London's Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest airport in the UK, closed its runway Monday Afternoon after an engine fire forced Virgin Flight VS27 to make an emergency landing.
The Virgin Atlantic flight left the West Sussex airport at 10:48 local time bound for Orlando, Florida when it was forced to return, landing at 12:30.
Due to a technical problem on board the aircraft, the captain decided as a precautionary measure to immediately evacuate the aircraft, Virgin Atlantic Airways said in a statement.
Our teams at Gatwick are now looking after our passengers and assisting with their immediate requirements, the airline continued. Virgin Atlantic is working closely with the authorities to establish the cause of this incident. The safety and welfare of our crew and passengers is Virgin Atlantic's top priority.
The Airbus A330-300 was carrying 13 crew and 299 passengers, four of which suffered minor injuries during the evacuation, according to Virgin.
Liam Moore, a passenger on Virgin Flight VS27, told the BBC everybody was shaken up.
We were on the plane and everything seemed fine. Then the pilot came on the Tannoy about 10 minutes into the flight and said we would have to do an emergency landing.
It all happened so quickly. We landed and suddenly all the doors flung open and the emergency slides were inflated.
We then had to slide down the chutes; some people got cuts and grazes from the slide.
Passengers used emergency slides to deplane when the troubled aircraft returned to Gatwick. Virgin said the captain decided to evacuate the plane immediately after touching down as a precautionary measure.
The West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was called to reports of a small fire on board an aircraft, however the extent of the smoke or fire on board remains unclear.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, tweeted an apology Monday afternoon:
Very sorry to all passengers on board VS27, the staff @virginatlantic are doing everything they can to look after everybody.
This is the first incident involving a Virgin flight since 2008 when another passenger jet was forced to turn back to Gatwick Airport less than an hour into its journey due to a technical problem.
Gatwick remained closed for more than an hour and a half Monday as flights diverted to other airports, including Stansted in Essex. The airport reopened using a backup runway around 2 p.m. local time, but is experiencing residual delays.
British Airways warned customers: Flight delays, diversions and cancellations are expected so if you are due to travel to or from London Gatwick, please check the status of your flight before leaving for the airport.
Meanwhile, easyJet said its flights were experiencing significant disruption. The airline recommended passengers check the status of their flight before leaving the airport.
Monday's incident was the second closure for Gatwick in three days. On Friday, all departures were temporarily suspended after a hot air balloon drifted into the flight path.