Holidaymakers, immigration officers and several deportees were involved in a brawl aboard a Virgin Atlantic aircraft which was grounded on the runway while armed police boarded and brought the situation under control.
The passenger plane was bound for Jamaica, London’s Evening Standard newspaper reported yesterday.
Police were called to Gatwick Airport at following a disturbance aboard the Virgin Atlantic flight bound for Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The plane remained grounded on the runway for several hours after the altercation between three deportees and immigration officers, which was also said to have involved passengers heading to Jamaica on holiday or to visit friends and relatives.
Five people were marched off the flight at the captain’s request before the plane eventually departed about three hours late.
A Sussex Police spokeswoman told the paper: “Police were called to Gatwick Airport at about 1.40pm on Friday to a report of a disturbance on board a Virgin Atlantic flight to Montego Bay.
“Three men, who were being removed from the UK and accompanied by escort officers, became violent and had to be restrained.
“A number of passengers became involved and a Taser was drawn by a Sussex Police officer but not discharged.
“A total of five passengers were escorted from the plane before take-off at the request of the captain. No arrests were made.
“The detainees were also removed from the flight and taken to Harmondsworth Detention Centre where they remain.”
About four immigration officers were fighting two men about to be deported, a holidaymaker said. The screams ringing through the cabin did not evoke a holiday mood.
One passenger, heading to Jamaica to visit his dying mother, said he was ordered off the plane after objecting to the level of force being used against the deportees.
He says he has been told he has now lost his money and will have to pay again to visit his mother.
A UK Home Office spokesman, commenting generally, said: “If people are in the country illegally and refuse to leave voluntarily we will remove them.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman apologised to passengers, saying : “The safety and security of our customers and crew is our number one priority. We would like to apologise for the delay and any inconvenience caused.
“Disruptive passengers are very rare on our flights but we take such behaviour extremely seriously and will not tolerate anything that disrupts the experience of our other customers.”
Written by Peter Needham