(CNN) -- A Spirit Airlines flight departing New Orleans en route to Dallas was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The crew reported smoke in the cockpit and returned to New Orleans, where the flight landed safely," said Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman. "As in all such cases, the FAA is following up with the airline."
The maintenance problem didn't take the aircraft out of service for long.
"Upon indication of a smoky odor in the cabin, our flight 365 from New Orleans to Dallas/Fort Worth returned to New Orleans as a safety precaution," said Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson. "It was a normal landing and customers safely deplaned. After our maintenance checked the aircraft, the flight continued to DFW."
A man who said he was on the flight told CNN affiliate WWL that passengers heard grinding noises and the wheels retracting a couple minutes into the flight. The man, who didn't want to be identified, also said he saw smoke and felt vibrations.
Another passenger said the airline told passengers that the problem might be due to the air conditioning system.
Spirit Airlines' Pinson said that Flight 365's problems were "unrelated" to another aircraft's engine troubles last week. In that case, an engine failed on Atlanta-bound Spirit Flight 165 shortly after takeoff from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The aircraft returned safely to the Dallas airport.
Because of last week's engine failure, this week the airline conducted inspections of all of its engines starting on Wednesday. That led to lengthy delays for hundreds of passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Wednesday night into Thursday morning, with dozens sleeping at the airport until their aircraft were cleared for takeoff.
The safety checks took about 45 minutes per aircraft, Pinson said.
Spirit announced Thursday afternoon that all checks had been completed and apologized for the delays. The airline said the checks were voluntary and not mandated by the FAA.