Rashidul Islam anonymously called police 45 minutes before his easyJet booking from Gatwick was due to take off, warning: “Someone may have a bomb on the plane, you need to delay the flight”.
The hoaxer, 32, made two further threats in the following minutes – causing crew on the 5.40pm flight to Marrakesh to be evacuated and all 147 passengers to be checked again by security.
Luggage also had to be removed and rescreened, resulting in a three-hour delay at Britain’s second busiest airport on a bank holiday weekend.
The chaos on 4th May last year is thought to have cost easyJet around £30,000.
Islam, who was flying to Morocco to visit his fiancée, admitted that he made the bomb hoax after experiencing transport difficulties en route to the airport from Cricklewood, north London. After being arrested, Islam told police he had panicked about missing his flight as he would not be able to afford another ticket.
Natalie Smith, of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Rashidul Islam suggests his 999 calls were simply a misguided solution to running late and not intended to cause genuine fear. But the bomb hoax was intended to make authorities fear there was a genuine enough threat that they needed to search the plane.
“The consequences were so serious that flight crew had to be evacuated, passengers rechecked and luggage removed – at a cost of three extra hours on the runway and £30,000 to the airline.”
Islam was jailed for 16 months at Lewes Crown Court today after admitting communicating false information at an earlier hearing.
Islam first ran into transport difficulty last May when his train to Gatwick unexpectedly terminated at St Pancras. He instead took a taxi from the central London station but traffic meant he would have arrived at the airport with only minutes to get through security.
The hoax initially succeeded in giving Islam time to check in but he was arrested at the gate after police traced him as the anonymous caller. The flight eventually took off at 8.50pm, after cabin crew had to be swapped having exceeded their hours due to the delay.
Ms Smith added: “This sentence should send a message that creating a bomb scare is no trivial matter. These threats have a major impact on everyone in the airport – diverting multiple agencies from core duties such as assisting passengers, providing security or carrying out counter-terrorism checks."