A Dubai-bound Emirates Airline plane became the second international flight in nine days to make an emergency landing in Western Australia after a burning smell was detected in the cabin.
Flight EK425, which left Perth carrying 122 passengers early on Thursday, landed safely at Perth International Airport about two and a half hours after it had taken off.
Passengers said the plane turned back after a “chemical-like” odour was detected in the cabin.
Emirates Airline said in a statement that contrary to some media reports, there had been no smoke in the cockpit or the cabin of the A340-500 Airbus.
But passengers said they had detected a strong smell of fumes and a burning smell, which became stronger when the plane landed.
The incident followed an emergency landing by a Qantas Airbus A330-300 at Learmonth airstrip in the state’s north-west last Tuesday.
More than 70 people aboard Qantas flight 72 from Singapore to Perth were injured when they were flung around the cabin during two unexpected drops in altitude.
Former Wesfarmers managing director Michael Chaney, a passenger on today’s Emirates flight, said there was “a bit of smoke in the cabin” before the pilot announced the plane was returning to Perth.
“Smoke was not smelt by most passengers in the plane but airline staff checked cabin luggage to try and find where the smell was coming from,” Mr Chaney said.
“It was all very well organised … the pilot said the plane was operating normally and the plane was coming back as a precaution.”
Perth woman Tracie Corp said there had definitely been a burning smell in the cabin of the aircraft.
“When we landed that’s when you could really smell it,” Ms Corp said.
A man who wanted to be known only as Peter, of Perth, said the smell of fumes had been “quite strong”.
“At first I couldn’t smell it but by the end you could,” he said.
“It was chemical-type fumes smell … almost an overheating type smell.”
He said he was asleep and woke to the pilot’s message that there was a smell of fumes in the galley area.
“He (the pilot) was about to cross the coast and said, ‘I’m not prepared to risk it, we’re going to prepare to return the Perth’,” Peter said.
“… I don’t think people were overly worried.”
But Perth man Sunny Chopra said cabin crew had triggered some panic among passengers when they “started running around the plane”.
Mr Chopra said he could not smell any fumes where he was seated at the rear of the plane and passengers around him said the same.
A hostess had told passengers they were looking for fire equipment.
“She said there was nothing to worry about but the way they were running in the plane, along with the supervisor … everyone was running and it raised the bells,” Mr Chopra said.
The Emirates statement said the decision to return was a precautionary measure.
“As is usual in this type of situation, emergency services were activated as per standard procedure but were not required,” it said.
“Safety was not compromised at any point.”
Aircraft engineers were investigating the cause of the smell, it said.
Passengers were processed through customs and immigration before either being sent home or put up in hotels until the next available flight.