A Ryanair flight was forced to make an unscheduled stopover to get a "drunk" Irish couple off the plane.

Ryanair flight FR7063 was on its way from the popular tourist resort of Alicante in Spain to Dublin on Wednesday afternoon (10 January) when the pilot decided to divert the plane to Santander, in northern Spain, after the pair became "aggressive".

The captain radioed ahead for the Civil Guard – the Spanish police – to meet the aircraft on the runway where the couple were asked to leave the plane to be formally identified.

The flight resumed an hour later.

The two passengers at the centre of the incident face a potentially hefty fine for breaching air security. The Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA) will determine the amount.

A spokesman for the Civil Guard said the couple were aggressive and looked like they had been arguing violently after having too much to drink.

"The pilot asked us to attend because he didn't want two people who were on the plane and being aggressive to continue their journey," he was quoted as saying by The Sun.

"They won't face any criminal charges but are likely to receive a fine from AESA.

"I cannot comment on what happened in the plane because it wasn't something the Civil Guard witnessed.

"The message from the plane was that they were being aggressive."

Ryanair insisted that the issue highlighted the need to limit alcohol consumption at airports. Over the last two years 442 people have been arrested for drunken behaviour at airports and on flights.

"We will not tolerate unruly or disruptive behaviour at any time. The safety and comfort of our customers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority," said a spokesman.

Connection with air rage

"This is exactly why we are calling for significant changes to prohibit the sale of alcohol at airports, such as a two-drink limit per passenger and no alcohol sales before 10am."

On Wednesday, the Mirror reported that the Home Office was looking to close a loophole which allows pubs and bars in British airports to sell alcohol outside the usual licensing laws.

Airports are exempt from the Licensing Act 2003, which regulates the sale and supply of alcohol and opening hours for licensed premises. The exemption allows passengers to buy drinks at selected premises at any time of the day, even before an early flight.

A report by the House of Lords in April last year called for an end to 24-hour boozing after it found that the consumption of alcohol before a flight, particularly in the early hours, was directly connected with so-called "air rage" incidents.