A PASSENGER on a plane that landed at Manchester airport with an RAF Typhoon escort was arrested yesterday on suspicion of making a hoax bomb threat.
Fears were initially raised over “a possible device on board” by the pilot of flight QR23 from Doha, Qatar, as it approached the airport.
Video footage and photos showed an RAF jet accompanying the Qatar Airways Airbus A330 as it made its descent, while passengers reported a man being removed from the plane after it landed safely.
Greater Manchester Police later confirmed the arrest was related to a suspected hoax.
In a statement, the airline said: “Qatar Airways can confirm that flight QR23 from Doha to Manchester, an Airbus A330-300, landed safely at Manchester airport ahead of its scheduled arrival time of 13:15. There were 269 passengers and 13 Qatar Airways crew on board.
“The crew on board had received a threat about a possible device on board and Qatar Airways immediately took all the necessary precautions to alert British authorities.
“The safety and well-being of our passengers and crew is our top priority. As this is a matter of a police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Paul Bell, who was on his way to the airport in a taxi, told a TV news channel that he saw the Typhoon, from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, intercept the passenger plane.
He said: “We heard the fighter jet circling over Stockport and ten minutes later we saw the plane coming in, being followed by it. We saw the Typhoon coming in, literally flying around the aeroplane. It then pinged up on the sat-nav that the airport was on lockdown.”
An RAF spokesman said: “We can confirm that Typhoon aircraft were launched from RAF Coningsby in their quick-reaction alert role to investigate a civilian aircraft whose pilot had requested assistance.
“The aircraft was escorted to Manchester where it landed safely. This incident is now being handled by the civilian authorities.”
Manchester airport said nine incoming flights had to be diverted to other airports.
Passengers’ families waited anxiously for news while the incident was dealt with.
Pauline Cox from Chester was waiting for her son, Matthew, 24, travelling back after a three-week trip to Thailand. She said: “Nobody has been out to tell us anything. Parents have been waiting two, three hours. When we asked, we were told they were in a remote location for security reasons.”
Arthur Smee, 58, a hospital porter from North Wales, was waiting for his daughter, Lisa, 25.
He said: “Some people were stood around talking and some had pictures of the plane being followed by a military plane. You just think the worst, don’t you?
“I’m just glad she got in touch. She said armed police have been on the plane and taken somebody off.”
An airport spokesman said last night: “There are a few minor delays to outgoing flights but we’re pretty much back to normal.”