A Ryanair passenger jet was escorted into Stansted airport by two RAF fighter jets after a suspected hoax security alert. Flights were temporarily grounded at the hub as the plane was redirected from its route between Kaunas in Lithuania and Luton airport in Bedfordshire.
"The RAF can confirm Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft were launched this morning from RAF Coningsby to intercept a civilian aircraft. The aircraft was safely escorted to Stansted airport," a spokesman for the Royal Air Force said. He added the planes had been "authorised to transit at supersonic speed for operational reasons".
Police said passengers were being safely taken off the plane and Stansted Airport said the runway was briefly closed while the aircraft landed but flights were arriving and departing normally again. "This flight from Kaunas to London Luton diverted to London Stansted in line with procedures after Lithuanian authorities received a suspected hoax security alert," Ryanair said in a statement.
Extraordinary photos show the passenger jet flanked by two military jets this morning as it circled above the airport. Others taken from the ground showed heavily armed cops on the tarmac after the plane had landed, escorting stunned passengers from the aircraft. Travellers told of how they had to drop their hand luggage at the back of the plane as they were rushed off and onto a nearby bus - walking through two lines of armed cops.
A passenger on board the flight said they were only told of the diversion as the plane came into land at Stansted, but claimed the threat may have been known before the flight departed Lithuania. He added: "Before we boarded in Kaunas we were delayed by 20mins. We saw fire engines and police but were not told why."
He said once they had left the plane sniffer dogs were brought in by the heavily armed officers to check all the luggage.