Two men were being questioned by police today after a passenger plane was diverted from Manchester to Stansted Airport.
• Two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit
• Incident was not said to be terrorism-related.
They were held on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft after an RAF Typhoon jet was scrambled to escort the plane which was travelling from Pakistan to the UK.
Officers boarded Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709 and removed men aged 30 and 41 from the plane.
Early indications were that there was a fight on board and the incident was not terrorism-related.
A police spokesman said: “Essex Police have boarded a passenger plane diverted to Stansted Airport and two men have been arrested on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft. They have been removed from the plane.”
The RAF jet was scrambled following an incident around 10 minutes before the plane, which departed from Lahore, was due to land in Manchester at 2pm.
According to one of the passengers, the aircraft’s cabin crew said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit.
Umari Nauman told Sky News: “The cabin crew informed us that basically they tried to come into the cockpit a few times and because they had been asked not to do that they got into a bit of an argument with the crew and made a few threats.”
She said all the passengers were ordered to leave their possessions on board before leaving the plane.
An airport source said it was thought a fight led to the aircraft being diverted.
He said: “Yeah, it sounds like it from what I have seen and heard. That is what it sounds like but it caused sufficient concern for the crew to ask for assistance and report it.”
The plane remained at a spot on the north side of Stansted Airport with flights carrying on as normal.
A spokesman for the airport said passengers were being taken off the plane.
“They will be taken to a reception centre on the airport where police may wish to interview them about what they have seen.
“At some point police and the airline will arrange for their onward transportation to Manchester.”
It is unknown if the passengers will be flown there or transferred on a coach.
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft which was due to land at Manchester Airport at 1.30pm today has been diverted to our sister airport London Stansted, where the authorities are investigating.
“The plane - flight number PK709 - was travelling from Lahore and had 297 passengers on board. For further information for friends or family who were due to meet the flight at Manchester please call 0800 140 4007.”
Mahmouda Aslam, 50, from Prestwich, Manchester, was at Manchester Airport waiting for her husband Mohammed on the flight.
After speaking to him on his mobile, she said: “I said, ‘Are you all right? Are you scared?’. He said, ‘We are all okay. The flight is full of police’.”
She said she was “just glad the plane has landed”, adding: “They are all just sat there, they can’t even get out of the chairs. I’m feeling better because the police are on there.”
Another worried relative, Zohaib Sattar, 24, from Huddersfield, was waiting for his wife Iqra Anwar, 24, and his father Abdul Sattar, 57.
Mr Sattar said he spoke to his father on the phone after it landed.
“They have taken two people off the plane and are checking the plane all over,” he said.
“The rest are just sat there waiting for further information. My father said there was no warning or threat, all of a sudden the plane just turned around.”
Superintendent Darrin Tomkins, of Essex Police, said this afternoon: “At 1.20pm today Essex Police were notified that a threat had been made to the safety of passengers on board a Boeing 777 airliner which was flying from Lahore to Manchester.
“In accordance with standard protocols the plane was diverted to Stansted Airport and military aircraft escorted it until it landed.
“The plane touched down at 2.15pm and once it had been directed to a safe location armed police officers entered the aircraft and arrested two suspects on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft.
“The two men aged 30 and 41, and British nationals, were then removed from the aircraft and taken to waiting police vehicles.
“They have been taken to a police station where they remain in custody pending interview by detectives.
“The rest of the passengers have been allowed to disembark the plane under police escort, they have been placed on airport coaches and have been taken to the terminal building for debriefing.
“The plane will remain at its current location and will be subject to forensic examination by specialist officers.
“At this point in time no suspicious items have been recovered.
“This incident is being treated as a criminal offence and remains under the direction of Essex Police.”