A Southwest Airlines flight headed to Chicago from Baltimore had to turn around Friday morning after a passenger became ill on the flight, the airline said. Back at the gate, mechanics were called to check a mechanical issue on the plane.
Southwest Flight 314 was scheduled to leave at 6:29 a.m. EST from Baltimore–Washington International Airport and arrive at 7:30 a.m. CST at Midway International Airport, according to an online schedule.
"Shortly after departing the gate in Baltimore, Flight 314 returned to the gate due to a medical situation onboard," the airline said in a statement. "While at the gate, the pilots reported an issue with the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit. Mechanics were called out to take a look at it and fix any issues with it."
"Once it was fixed, the aircraft was cleared to return to service and depart for Chicago," the airline said.
According to Pratt & Whitney, a company that manufactures parts for commercial and military aircraft, auxiliary power units are "gas turbine engines used primarily during aircraft ground operation to provide electricity, compressed air, and/or shaft power for main engine start, air conditioning, electric power and other aircraft systems."
Passenger Dennis Quiros told NBC News the plane had unexpected issues before taking off from Baltimore. Quiros also said there was a medical emergency on the plane.
"We boarded the flight like any other, and once the plane had all the passengers on board, we had to wait for almost 20 minutes due to the engine not starting," he said.
Quiros said the captain told passengers a large battery was brought in to jump-start the engine.
"Once that happened, we were backed out of the gate and were headed to the runway, when all of a sudden the plane came to a very abrupt stop," he said. "It seems as though the right engine was not firing up again. And there was smoke from them trying to start it."
The incident happened days after a different Southwest Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after an engine exploded and tore a hole in the plane, partially pulling the woman sitting next to the opening out of the plane.
In Friday's incident, Quiros said a flight attendant started to "run back and forth from the front to the back, and we didn't know what was going on."
There was a lot of commotion, he said, and the captain "immediately turned the plane around and headed for the gate."
"When we got to the gate the captain let us know that the engine had gone out or never fired up," he said. "We had to all exit the plane as the mechanic was not able to correct the problem."
Quiros said the pilots and staff "did a great job not only attending to the medical emergency but also realizing the plane was not up to flying conditions. The captain and crew remained calm and got us back to the gate safely."
The flight took off about three hours later and arrived in Chicago at about 10:15 a.m. Further details about the medical emergency were not immediately known.