Cellphone video footage showed the cabin filling with smoke, while passengers said that the plane’s oxygen masks failed to deploy properly.
“Southwest flight #3923 departing Havana, Cuba, for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday morning reportedly experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose shortly after takeoff,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement to NBC 6.
Passenger Steven Rodriguez told the news channel that he heard a “big boom” and that the incident was “like an explosion.
“People started taking matters into their own hands and by force were punching the roof to eject the masks,” said Mr Rodriguez.
“And people had bloody knuckles and all because they were punching the roof. There were little kids on the plane and elderly women.”
The plane safely returned to Havana and the passengers evacuated by emergency slides. They were then taken to an airport terminal on busses and were expected to be put on another flight to Fort Lauderdale.
Cuban airport officials said the passengers were evacuated in good condition and an investigation was underway.