Heathrow-bound PIA forced to land at Stansted, wanted man held


LONDON: A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane flying to Heathrow airport was forced to land at London’s Stansted Airport on Tuesday evening over security threats.

According to latest reports, a 52-year-old suspect has been taken into custody by the British authorities and shifted to a police station on charges of financial embezzlement further adding that the passengers at the said flight are stuck at the airport from last six hours.

According to British Police, the aircraft was diverted due to reports of a disruptive passenger. “This is not believed to be a hijack situation or terror matter,” Essex Police said in a statement.

“The plane is currently at the airport and officers are making enquiries.”

Stansted airport spokesman says: “The aircraft is likely to continue its journey onwards to Heathrow today pending inquiries that the police are making into the
individual on the aircraft.”

The Ministry of Defence said that Typhoon jets had intercepted the aircraft, which had been en route to London´s Heathrow Airport, and escorted it to Stansted.

Flight tracking websites said Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK757 from Lahore to Heathrow had been diverted to Stansted.

In a statement, a PIA spokesman said that UK authorities received some ‘vague’ security threat through an anonymous phone call regarding PIA’s Lahore-Heathrow flight PK-757 before its landing at Heathrow, after which, as per their standard procedures the aircraft was diverted to Stansted airport.

He said that security clearance of the aircraft is underway and all passengers onboard are safe and being looked after by PIA’s local management.

“Passengers will be provided surface transport to London. For the return flight efforts are underway to ensure least inconvenience to passengers”, the statement further added.

The spokesman said that an unruly passenger made threats to staff and passengers and caused security alert. A passenger told this reporter that the pilot pressed the alarm button and alerted the British authorities but there was no independent confirmation of that.

There were reports that a man has been arrested for questioning but a Sessex police force spokesman said officers are investigating the incident, which is “not believed to be a hijack situation or terror matter”.

A spokesman for Stansted said the diverted plane was a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Lahore.

At the time of filing of this report, the aircraft was about to continue its journey onwards to Heathrow today pending inquiries that the police are making into the individual on the aircraft.

An RAF Typhoon jet was scrambled in May 2013 in response to reports of disruption on board a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Pakistan to Manchester. The Boeing 777 was escorted to Stansted.

Two men were arrested and went on trial accused of threatening to blow up the plane, but were cleared when the judge ruled they had no case to answer.

Typhoon pilots are on standby 24 hours a day to defend UK airspace. Squadrons are based at RAF Coningsby, covering the south of the country, and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, to cover the north.

Stansted is a designated airport for dealing with hijacks and major security alerts. Such incidents are dealt with in a remote part of the airfield to the north-west of the terminal building.