An Easyjet flight heading from London to the Spanish holiday island of Menorca on Sunday was escorted to its destination by a Spanish fighter jet after a British teenager onboard made a bomb threat on social media, police said on Monday.
The 18-year-old, who was travelling with five friends, spent the night in jail and is awaiting a court hearing, said a spokesman for Spain’s Civil Guard police.
Footage of the incident showed an F-18 jet flying close to the distinctive orange wingtips of the commercial airline’s A-319 aircraft, which typically carries between 120 and 150 passengers.
The fighter jet is seen waggling its wings, a gesture known in aviation as indicating the other pilot should follow him, while worried passengers can be heard discussing what is happening, with one woman asking: “Why is it doing that, is it just showing off?”
Military planes usually intercept civilian aircraft when ground air traffic control lose contact with them or there is a perceived threat to the aircraft or passengers either because of a bomb warning, suspicious object or feared terrorist activity.
EasyJet flight EZY8303, which left London Gatwick airport at 1 p.m., landed safely at Menorca airport in the Balearic Islands around half an hour late, just before 5 p.m., and was escorted to a security area.
There, the teenager was arrested and over a period of two hours passengers were disembarked one by one and asked to identify their luggage for checks by sniffer dogs and bomb disposal experts, the Civil Guard said.
Other flights out of Menorca were disrupted by the incident.
An Easyjet spokesman confirmed the flight was escorted by a military aircraft and there was a delayed disembarking due to precautionary security checks, but did not give details as to the cause.
“The safety and security of its passengers and crew is always easyJet’s highest priority and we would like to thank passengers for their understanding,” he said.