A drunk holidaymaker had to be kicked off the plane after spitting at cabin crew.

Uche Ezedinma had to be physically restrained on board the Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick Airport to the Caribbean.

On board he abused and threatened cabin crew, punched overhead lockers, and even tried to smoke a cigarette in the toilet.

The 36-year-old from Elgin Road in Croydon had boarded the flight to St Lucia with his mother and 247 other passengers in January.

But his behaviour was so disruptive that pilots had to make an emergency landing in the Azores islands to get him off the plane.

It was the first time in 20 years that the pilot had to divert a flight due to poor passenger behaviour.

On the ground, all the other passengers had to disembark to allow the plane to refuel, as the diversion had caused more fuel to be used.

But after an investigation by Interpol in the Azores, which is administered by Portugal, he was allowed to go after two hours of paperwork.

So Gatwick Police investigators took up the matter and presented evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, and Ezedinma was charged for being drunk on an aircraft, and negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft of any person therein.

He was jailed for 14 months at Lewes Crown Court last month, and ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge.

Gatwick Investigations Detective Sergeant Patrick Sweeney: “The language, attitude and behaviour displayed by Ezedinma throughout the flight was completely unacceptable.

“No passenger or crew should have to experience such abject abuse on board an aircraft, and the sentence imposed sends a clear message to others that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

In May the police launched its annual summer crackdown on disruptive passengers at Gatwick Airport.

The operation aims to prevent drunk and disruptive behaviour on flights and in the airport through early engagement with passengers.

Det Sgt Sweeney added: “It is an offence to be drunk on board an aircraft, and passengers need to be aware of their own responsibilities before they board a flight.

“By all means have fun, but don’t ruin it for yourself or anyone else.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority, and we will not tolerate disruptive or abusive behaviour on board any of our aircraft.

“We continue to work closely with the relevant authorities and will always seek prosecution for those individuals that cause disruption to our services through unacceptable behaviour.”