pope francis mexico 2016 laser
Pope Francis with Mexico's first lady Angelica Rivera (L) and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto after his arrival in Mexico CityREUTERS/Edgard Garrido

A plane carrying Pope Francis was hit by a laser pointed from the ground as it prepared to land in Mexico City on 13 February, airline Alitalia has confirmed. The Pope's plane landed safely and it is not known if his plane was specifically targeted or the culprit was pointing the laser at random. Nobody was injured in the incident and the Pope was unaware of the incident until later.

In a statement, Alitalia said pilot Massimiliano Marselli and other commercial pilots in the area saw the green laser on the ground when it passed 8,000 feet. Marselli promptly called the control tower. The incident was recorded and published online by Airlive.net. Flight AZ4000 from Cuba landed safely at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport despite the distraction. Pilots have warned that lasers pointed at jets is becoming increasingly common and could have disastrous consequences.

In its statement Alitalia said: "The cockpit crew of Alitalia flight AZ4000 on Friday February 12 noticed a laser light from the ground, as did other aircraft flying towards Mexico City, as they prepared to land at the Mexican capital's airport.

"The aircraft captain, Massimiliano Marselli, promptly reported to the control tower what the cockpit crew had witnessed, which is standard procedure with these type of matters, and similarly it is usual practice for the control tower to alert the competent, local authorities. None of our cockpit crew or any passengers on board were injured by the beam and the aircraft landed safely. The aircraft, an Airbus A330, was en route from Havana in Cuba to Mexico."

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) has called for lasers to be classified an offensive weapon following an incident last week when a plane on its way to New York had to return to Heathrow after a laser was beamed into the cockpit near Heathrow airport, resulting in a medical issue for the pilot. Balpa's general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength."