A Thomas Cook flight takes off
Thomas Cook holidaymakers “lucky to be alive” after their plane’s engine exploded during take-off from Holguin airport PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Traumatised holidaymakers said they were "lucky to be alive" after their plane's engine exploded during take-off.

The Thomas Cook flight from Cuba to Manchester was forced to abort as it was about to lift off from Holguin Airport on 27 November.

Passenger Brian Kennedy, from Chorley, Lancashire, told the Sun: "Then there was an almighty bang and a big flash of light.

"You saw the engine exploding, then the plane went down suddenly, and the engine was on fire, with sparks flying down towards the back of the plane."

The father-of-four added: "It happened when the front wheel was up and the back wheels still on the runway - five seconds more, and the plane would have been in the air and we'd have been killed.

"We're lucky to be alive, if it had happened any later there would have been an explosion, we would have all been killed."

Another passenger, Joseph Farnhill from Darwen, Lancashire, added: "There were 300-odd people screaming, people were being sick and peeing themselves."

Farnhill, 64, said: "Afterwards the captain came on to speak and he seemed all shaken up. That man saved our lives."

But shaken holidaymakers complained that Thomas Cook flight attendants ushered premium passengers off the plane before those in economy class.

Gareth Swan, 41, was on board with his wife after a two-week honeymoon. He said: "I felt like a second class citizen. I consider myself a loyal Thomas Cook customer who's been made to feel worthless by them."

The senior prison officer from Durham added: "It was very poor customer service. There was definitely an issue with a lack of support. There was no counselling offered in resort after what was a traumatising experience, and no official information available. We mainly heard what was going on through word-of-mouth with other passengers."

Most passengers travelled back from Cuba two days later, landing in Manchester on 30 November. Each passenger will receive €600 in compensation, in accordance with EU law.

A Thomas Cook Airlines spokesperson said: "Flight MT2653 from Holguin, Cuba to Manchester was scheduled to depart at 22:05 local time on Monday 27th November.

"Due to a technical engine issue, the captain aborted take-off on the runway and returned the aircraft to the stand where customers and crew disembarked.

"Our customers' safety is always our first priority, and we are very sorry for the delay and inconvenience caused.

"We arranged transport and hotel accommodation for all customers and a replacement aircraft returned all passengers from Holguin to Manchester on Wednesday."

The British holiday outfit added that families with children and premium customers were allowed to disembark first to allow a staggered flow of passengers into the terminal.