Katie Nelson was on her way to see her fiance after four months apart when she was told the flight she was on was about to make an emergency landing at Alice Springs.
The Malaysia Airlines Flight MH122 from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur was travelling close to the West Australian coastline when it was forced to divert to Alice Springs on Thursday afternoon.
Malaysia Airlines said in a statement the plane was forced to divert for "technical reasons".
Katie Nelson was a passenger, sitting along an exit row with a full view of the plane engines.
"I could hear the engine turn off, then there was a loud clunky sound and there was a shaking," Ms Nelson told SBS News.
"That’s how we first reacted to it and noticed something was wrong. It was quite terrifying."
The plane spent two hours in the air before touching down in Alice Springs.
"The staff weren’t very informative and not giving us the heads-up as to what’s going on," Ms Nelson said.
"That wasn’t really fair. They were saying they didn’t know anything as well, they were in the same boat as we were. It was quite scary."
Ms Nelson said her fiance contacted the airline several times for information about the flight to no avail, before she eventually sent him a text message.
Chris Kanani, the husband of another passenger aboard, told ABC his wife described the experience as "hell".
"She said she was on the loo when she started hearing loud banging noises from the right-hand side of the plane and that's when all it started," Mr Kanani told the ABC.
The airline said the incident would be investigated.
"Safety was not at any time compromised and the commanding captain decided to divert the flight for technical assistance," the airline said.
"The in-flight engine shutdown and diversion of a twin-engine Airbus A330 which landed safely at Alice Springs Airport will be investigated," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in a statement.
Another passenger told the Nine Network how the crew ordered passengers to brace for impact when coming into land.
"They told us to get into the brace position, emergency landing and all this business quite scary," he said.
Passengers are expected to leave Alice Springs on a substitute flight on Friday evening, the airline says.
The ATSB said it would interview the pilot and other crew and review all available evidence as part of its inquiries.