According to The Sun UK, the plane returned to Gatwick after 90 minutes, costing BA £50,000 and causing travel chaos. Fire crews rushed aboard to check out the overpowering smell. The cause and source remains unclear.
A passenger Stuart, his wife Susan, 43, and daughters Rosie, ten, and Olivia, nine were among up to 174 passengers on BA2552 who paid up to £700 for a return trip.
Finance worker Stuart, from Cardiff, added:
“There was a faint smell when we got on. We were told that they hoped when they put the air conditioning on it would clear, but it got even stronger. You could tell straightaway what it was.
“Everyone at the back of the plane was saying it smelled of cannabis. We’ve been to Amsterdam and we know what it smells like.
“Our daughters could smell it but didn’t know what it was. BA have been very quiet at giving us an explanation. All they said was the cabin crew was ill from a pungent smell at the back of the aircraft.
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“We were four rows from the back and the whole back of the plane stank. The smell was unmistakable. We have no idea where it was coming from. All the passengers said it smelled like weed.
“We were quite concerned about what it was and the crew seemed quite alarmed as well which put panic among the passengers. My daughter is afraid of flying anyway and the crew didn’t do much to make us feel better.”
Another holidaymaker Simon Skinner posted on Twitter:
“British Airways flight to Heraklion turned back after nasty smell. Disappointed holidaymakers.”
The plane was diverted over Paris and passengers spent an hour at Gatwick before a new plane and crew were organised to fly at midday.
Hundreds in Crete waiting to return to the UK were delayed by up to six hours, sparking compensation claims. BA also ripped up rotas as the crew had flown beyond their legal hours. The airline apologised but insisted no one was ill on the flight.
A spokesman said: “
Our pilot returned the aircraft to Gatwick as a precaution following reports of an unidentified strong smell in the cabin. We are sorry for the delay to our customers’ journeys.”