Captain orders 37 passengers to get off plane

MORE than 30 Tesco staff were thrown off a flight before take-off after the captain ruled some of them were "drunk and disorderly".

Police were called to help eject the workers after the pilot of the Belfast-bound plane became concerned at the potential safety threat to other passengers.

Tesco last night hit back at the decision, calling it "an over-reaction".

No-one was arrested in the incident at Glasgow airport at 8:30pm on Wednesday, but 37 Tesco workers were removed from the Flybe flight. They were unable to return home until yesterday morning.

The airline said the presence of the group, which included store managers, accountants and personnel managers, was a "potential threat to the safety of other passengers".

But Tesco said in a statement: "Whilst we are still investigating this matter, all our initial findings indicate that this has been an over-reaction on the part of the Flybe captain and crew.

"Both the statements given by passengers exiting the flight, which were broadcast on radio, and subsequent calls to our office from other independent witnesses on board, concur with what our staff have told us, that this was no more than good-natured banter among colleagues.

"We contacted Flybe regarding the incident and shall be pursuing the matter further with them."

Tesco confirmed that 40 employees were on the flight and three were among the 17 passengers allowed to travel to Belfast once flight BE140 was cleared for take-off.

The employees were returning to Belfast following a company meeting in Glasgow.

Flybe defended its decision and said its pilots were given "ultimate responsibility" for the safety of all its flights.

A spokesman said: "As the safety of each passenger on board a plane is the first priority of the captain it is crucial that he or she is completely satisfied before take-off that nothing on board could potentially distract staff or endanger other passengers.

Strathclyde Police confirmed its officers were called to the airport. None of the passengers was charged.