A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York has been forced to return to Heathrow Airport after a laser beam was pointed at the plane – prompting urgent action in the cockpit.
Audio of the plane’s exchange with air traffic control describes one of the pilots having a “medical issue” following the incident, which occurred “six or seven miles” west of Heathrow.
Virgin confirmed Flight VS025 to JFK had been abandoned as a “precautionary measure” after the plane’s First Officer reported “feeling unwell”.
All the passengers on the flight – which took off just before 8pm – are safe, but they will have to wait until 1pm on Monday to continue their journey because of “limited availability”.
Angry travellers complained that their luggage was going to remain on the plane overnight.
One passenger told Sky News there was “very little compassion” at Heathrow and accused the airline of “doing a poor job of looking after people”.
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic USA: “The safety of our crew and customers is our top priority and we apologise for any inconvenience to those onboard.
“All customers will be offered overnight accommodation and we will get them on their journey as soon as possible.”
The airline said it is working with authorities to identify the source of the “laser beam incident”
Metropolitan Police said they had been contacted at around 9.35pm but were still trying to establish where the offence took place.
Police have previously warned over high-powered laser pens being aimed at aircraft, saying there could be “disastrous consequences” through disorientation or momentary loss of control.
In 2014, a man who was caught on camera laughing with friends as he dazzled a police helicopter over Birmingham escaped jail after he admitted the offence.