A man who phoned in a hoax bomb threat in a bid to delay a flight he was running late for has been jailed for 16 months.
The 32-year-old called police 45 minutes before his easyJet flight to Marrakesh from Gatwick was due to take off after his train was cancelled and his taxi became stuck in traffic in May last year.
His hoax call caused the evacuation of the flights and 147 passengers were rechecked by security, costing the airline an estimated £30,000.
A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: “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 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 re-screened, resulting in a three-hour delay at Britain’s second busiest airport on a bank holiday weekend.”
The spokesman added that Islam was flying to Morocco to visit his fiance and made the hoax call after “transport difficulties” from Cricklewood, north London, to the airport.
He continued: “Islam first ran into transport difficulty 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 with a new cabin crew which had to be swapped as the previous crew had exceeded their hours because of the delay.
Following his arrest, Islam told police he panicked about missing his flight because he could not afford another ticket.
Natalie Smith, of the 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.”
Since the incident, Islam has also been given a 42-month sentence for unconnected money-laundering offences.
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.”
Additional reporting by agencies