Sun Country passenger describes engine failure during flight to MSP

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 27: Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on August 27, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images) (Getty Images)

A Sun Country flight from Seattle to Minneapolis was diverted to Spokane, Washington, on Friday night after the plane experienced a midair "engine shutdown" shortly after taking off.

Sun Country airlines said flight 286 from Seattle to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) landed safely at Spokane International Airport. Another aircraft then left Spokane at 10:30 a.m. PDT, then landed at MSP shortly after 3 p.m. CDT Saturday. 

Sun Country also confirmed the plane was a Boeing 737-800, but that the planes' engines are manufactured by a different company.  

A passenger on that plane, Becca Leitzen, who was traveling to Minnesota for a family reunion, described the moment she heard the captain announce the mechanical issues over the intercom. 

"To keep yourself calm, you go, ‘Okay, the windshield wipers aren't working, or something small.' We didn't know it was engine failure until we descended quite a bit," Leitzen said. "We were about 25 minutes out, I remember, and he said, 'We'll be landing in about 25 minutes, get ready for landing,' and he says ‘we do have an engine failure.’"

Leitzen was traveling with her mother during the flight, who noticed a shift in sunlight when the plane had turned around.  

"You immediately say, ‘I need to call my children, I need to call my husband, I need to tell them I love them,’" Leitzen said. "I was definitely anxious on the way down. I think had there been any rough air, there would have been a lot more anxiety, a lot more panic on board, but I think, really, it can be a little crazy how calm you can be in the heat of the moment, where, you know, it does no good to freak out."

Once the flight landed safely, Leitzen said she and other passengers had to make a "mad dash" to find accommodations, as it was graduation weekend in Spokane and many hotel rooms had already been booked. 

Leitzen said Sun Country gave them a food voucher worth $30 per person and an email address where they could send their hotel accomodation receipt. She said she was told Sun Country would reimburse them "up to a reasonable amount." 

Leitzen said her mind was on her family the whole time before she made it to MSP on Saturday. 

"When I did see my kids that afternoon, they got some extra big hugs," she said.