Two of the more than 200 passengers were Brian Unger and Janette Reider, both from Boston, Massachusetts.
The plane was making its way to Boston, when a smoke alarm had sounded and the pilot made the decision to divert to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Ms. Reider said the alarm started to sound over an hour before reaching Labrador.
She had heard the alarm sounding and immediately noticed the flight attendants racing about, one of which was carrying a fire extinguisher.
“It was unnerving,” Ms. Reider said.
Mr. Hunger said the attendant informed the passengers that smoke was detected in the belly of the plane and the crew had been unsuccessful in locating it manually.
“We were told they activated the fire suppression system but it only masked the problem so we landed here,” he said.
After the captain informed the passengers a diversion would be made, both said, everyone remained calm.
In Mr. Unger’s area of the plane, he said, the captain was reassuring in talking with the passengers, but he picked up on worry on the faces of the flight attendants.
“That’s what scared me—they looked worried,” he said.
In Ms. Reider’s section of the plane, once the alarm had stopped sounding it brought about a level of calm.
But still, she said, it played on the passengers mind.
“You can’t help but think about it because you were out there over all that water,” she said.
To keep her mind occupied, Ms. Reider set about preparing for an emergency landing, such as gathering together the possessions of her carry on.
Throughout the duration of the trip, they said, passengers were continuously monitoring the flights progress.
“When it looked like we were over land at some point, it seemed people immediately got calmer,” Mr. Unger said.
When the plane touched down in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the fire trucks and buses were waiting.
But the passengers experienced a delay.
Ms. Reider said the airline wasn’t able to make up its mind about what to do.
She said while they waited on the bus there were several decision changes about whether the plane was going to stay or leave.
“The captain was getting messages from the higher ups, he kept changing the plan,” she said. “There were about four changes but it’s okay because it’s an adventure.”
After the decision was made to stay, several organizations went to work to get the passengers through customs, fed and given a bed for the night.
Mr. Unger said the passengers were made to feel very comfortable during the stay.
He said they even got to tour the town and visit the local shops.
Although Labrador wasn’t an intended destination, the two passengers said under the circumstances it was a very pleasant stay.
“It was great hospitality and the people were friendly,” he said. “The staff came in early to make breakfast for us and everybody was just great.
“I can’t say enough about the hospitality, the way they were ready for us and treated us.”
Al Casey, Serco site manager, said there were a number of components working together that made the travellers stay a pleasant one.
Mr. Casey said as soon as work came in about the landing, all the necessary calls were made to have everyone in place for the flight’s arrival.
He said fire fighters were waiting on the runway as air traffic control was bringing the plane down.
“We got the passengers off and made sure things were secured with the fire,” he said.
Mr. Casey said permission was obtained from the Department of National Defence (DND) to house the travellers for 24 hours.
From there, he said, Serco and Woodward’s put the passengers through customs, brought them to the mess hall for a meal before giving them a bed for the night at the barracks.
“We are very fortunate that DND has that infrastructure made available on an emergency basis,” he said.
Last year, an emergency landing was made by Air France, which seen over 400 passengers spend the night in Goose Bay.
Mr. Casey said to have a diverted flight overnight in Goose Bay isn’t the norm and it does get the pulse rate up a bit. However, he added, there are a couple incidences like this every year for town.
He’s extremely impressed how the employees from the fire hall, air traffic control, customer service, DND, Woodward’s and Sedexo all pulled together make the passengers as comfortable as possible.
“It’s a big effort. There’s a bunch of parties that come together to deliver a service at minimal notice, it shows how well we work together as a team,” Mr. Casey said. ““I was very proud of the way our people responded, they done another great job seamlessly.”