A family-of-eight have been left traumatised after their easyJet flight was flanked by a Spanish fighter jet when a passenger reportedly made bomb threats on board. Video footage shows the plane being intercepted by a Spanish Airforce F18 fighter while travelling to Menorca.
Joe Brownell, 35, and his 32-year-old partner Lucy were flying out to celebrate grandad Roy's 70th birthday when the terrifying incident took place. The family, from Eastbourne in Sussex, had made it through Gatwick Airport without a hitch and thought they could finally relax on their flight out to Spain, Wales Online reports.
However, as the aircraft started to descend, they noticed the military plane "pretty much hugging" the right wing. Joe said: "The descent was probably about half an hour in total, the captain spoke to us once or twice throughout, appearing very aloof, I suppose just to keep us aware. He said nothing's happening, we're not sure what they're doing, they're not responding etc."
The flight was intercepted by a Spanish fighter jet just before the plane was due to land at around 5pm Sunday evening after the alarm was sounded by crew members. Joe, who was also travelling with 21-month-old daughter Willow, said all the passengers were left in the dark about what was going on.
The group of eight were kept on the plane as the captain addressed passengers, adding that there were a few security issues between Spanish authorities and British authorities but that there was nothing to worry about and it was a "false alarm". Joe added: "We left the plane after about an hour of waiting," he added, "20 by 20 [at a time] via the rear of the plane, we were all searched by sniffer dogs, all our hand luggage, then put on a coach."
He says he then saw four young lads around the age of 18 put in a car, with two released while the other two were driven off. The group had to then wait a couple of hours for their baggage to come out, meaning the total trip took some 14 hours from Gatwick.
"You read about all these things but you don't think it'll happen to you," added Joe. "It was extremely close, it's closer than you would think the Red Arrows are. There was no communication from the pilot whatsoever, it's just an added worry."
The family are now ready to enjoy their holiday in Menorca and put the traumatic flight behind them, although admit they still feel shaken by the ordeal. A spokesman for the Civil Guard confirmed today: “The Civil Guard has arrested an 18-year-old British national as the alleged author of a crime of public disorder in Mahon in Menorca.
“Yesterday the control tower at Menorca Airport was alerted to a bomb threat on a plane heading from London to the island capital Mahon which was still in the air and nearing the airport.
“The threat was said to have been sent on a social media platform. Once the plane landed it was taken to an area away from the main terminal and other aircraft.
“The Civil Guard organised a special operation which consisted of mobilising bomb disposal experts as well as sniffer dogs and other officers who created a safe perimeter around the plane. The passengers were disembarked and established protocol followed until police were able to confirm it was a false bomb threat and the person responsible was identified on social media along with five other companions as witnesses. They were taken to a police station so officers could clarify the situation.”
It was not immediately clear today if the unnamed teenager has already appeared before a judge in a closed court hearing and where he is now. He is expected to face a large compensation bill which could include the costs of the police operation and the scrambling of the military jet. Police sources confirmed he was likely to have to pick up the tab for the police operation if he were convicted.
An easyJet spokesperson told The Mirror: "EasyJet can confirm flight EZY8303 from London Gatwick to Menorca was escorted by military aircraft while landing in Menorca and delayed disembarking due to precautionary security checks. The passengers have since disembarked. The safety and security of its passengers and crew is always easyJet's highest priority and we would like to thank passengers for their understanding."
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