Two men arrested after Pakistani passenger plane diverted in UK airspace



A Pakistan International Airlines plane



Two men were arrested Friday after a Pakistani International Airlines (PIA) flight was diverted in UK airspace on its way to Manchester airport.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman said, "A Typhoon aircraft has been launched to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft within UK airspace," according to ITV.

The Guardian reported that to its understanding the pilot asked to be diverted as a precaution after becoming concerned about a disruptive passenger who was shouting. 

The Essex Police released this statement regarding the diverted plane:

"Essex Police has boarded a passenger plane diverted to Stansted Airport and two men have been arrested on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft.

"They have been removed from the plane. Police and partners are continuing to respond."

However, Zulfiqar Bijarani, a PIA spokesman, told CNN, "We have been told there may have been a bomb threat." He did not say whether he had any information to confirm or deny this.

ITV reported that the diverted plane has been moved to an isolated area away from passengers. The plane in question, PK709, was reportedly carrying 297 passengers on board and was enroute from Lahore to Manchester. The incident that caused the diversion apparently happened 10 minutes before it was due to land at Manchester.

This picture purportedly shows the plane in question: 

GlobalPost's Mariya Karimjee said that accidents on flights owned and operated by Pakistani airlines have raised many issues about the local air industry in recent years.

In 2007, the European Union banned all flights by PIA, the country's national aircraft carrier, because of safety concerns. Most of those concerns centered on the company's aging fleet. In 2006, 45 people were killed during take-off in the central Pakistani city of Multan.

Though PIA was the only aircraft in the country for years, in the mid-1990s, the government allowed private airlines to begin operating. These airlines were also plagued by many of the same issues that international critics raised about PIA — namely an aging fleet, unreliable pilots, and shoddy regulation.

In 2010, these issues were compounded after an Airblue flight crashed in the Margolla hills surrounding Pakistan. Everyone on board — 152 passengers — was killed.

The incident comes just hours after a British Airways jetliner was forced to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport, not long after it took off. All the passengers on the Oslo-bound Airbus SAS A319 were evacuated. The runways at Heathrow were briefly closed though at least one of them has since reopened.

The European Organization of the Safety of Air Navigation tweeted that there were significant delays due to the emergency.

More from GlobalPost: Emergency landing shuts runway at Heathrow Airport

Mariya Karimjee contributed to this report from Karachi, Pakistan.

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