On Monday 12th October a flight a Monarch Airlines flight ZB983 en-route from Funchal to Birmingham was intercepted by a French fighter aircraft. The flight had departed at 1040 hrs and the incident took place when the Airbus A321 was flying over French airspace.

The air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft. Immediately, the security protocol was triggered and a Mirage fighter of the French Air Force was sent and intercepted civil aircraft. Communication was then achieved.

The images of the ‘encounter’ were released on Wednesday. One of the 189 passengers said  ‘It was right by our window. It was so close you could see the pilot. It seemed to follow us and there was a small amount of panic – everyone on our plane stood up to have a look.

‘Some people were anxious. My husband asked if the pilot would make a statement but he didn’t speak to us during the whole flight. We fly that route several times a year and it’s very unusual.

A Monarch spokesman said a ‘military aircraft’ was launched following the loss of communication – standard procedure in such circumstances.

He said: ‘Monarch Airlines can confirm that Flight ZB983 from Funchal to Birmingham on October 12 was out of communication for a very short time while in French airspace.

‘As is standard procedure when any loss of contact occurs, military aircraft were launched to intercept the aircraft.

‘Communication with air traffic control had been re-established by the time the intercept.