New information reveals that equipment used to maintain cabin pressure malfunctioned on flight 3426. Officials say both air conditioning systems failed during the flight from Tampa. Those systems supply pressure to the aircraft, and when they stopped working the plane dropped thousands of feet.
As the pilot worked to regain altitude, Southwest said he mistakenly activated the P.A. system and sent his plan of action meant for crew members to passengers.
"When he put the P.A. on it was like a 'psshhhhhhh,' that kind of sound," passenger Shelley Wills said. "It came on three times and then that's when we heard, 'we're going down.'"
The pilot was able to correct the pressurization problem and landed safely. However, Wills said the miscommunication left many passengers upset and fearing for their lives. Southwest emailed an apology for the "confusion" and issued $200 vouchers.
"The voucher I think was a joke. I'm not really impressed with them, to be honest with you. Their customer service skills are lacking," Wills said.
One passenger who responded to the letter received this follow-up email from the airline:
"Most of the time, our communication is well received. However, there are instances when our efforts fall short of our customers' expectations. This was one of the occasions."
Wills said she flew Southwest to Florida with tickets she purchased before the frightening flight.
"When I was up in the air this time, I was still thinking about it, worried," Wills said.
She said she will not use the apology voucher from Southwest and isn't likely to fly with the airline again.
ABC11 received this statement Thursday afternoon:
"Safety is our number one priority and in this situation, and any other, our flight crew ensured our customers were safe. The flight landed safely and the aircraft was inspected upon landing."
ABC11 poured over the incident records from the FAA, but there is no history of this type of equipment failure on the plane involved in the ordeal.