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John Cox, 46, of Kidderminster, was jailed for nine and a half years for throwing a cigarette but into the toilet bin of a Monarch Airlines flight and starting a fire. Reuters

A drunken smoker who started a fire on an airplane after throwing his cigarette butt into the toilet bin has been jailed for more than nine years.

John Cox, 46, was travelling from Birmingham to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt when he threw the butt into the bin, causing a state of panic as the fire spread at 33,000ft.

Passengers and cabin crew reportedly started to weep and the pilot made a Mayday call after fears they could not extinguish the blaze.

However, as the pilot of the Monarch Airlines flight made a sharp descent, it emerged that a fire expert was on board the flight and helped quell the flames before the plane made its landing in Egypt.

Cox, of Kidderminster, was detained by local authorities and returned to the UK, where he was arrested and later charged with reckless arson.

Following a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court in March, Cox was sentenced to four and a half years for the 2015 incident, but his case reached the Appeal court after prosecution lawyers believed his sentence was too lenient.

At a hearing on Thursday (25 May), Lady Justice Sharp agreed that his punishment was too soft and raised the total sentence to nine and a half years.

"The potential for causing disaster here was plain and obvious," she told the court. "The sentence passed was unduly lenient, this offence called for a deterrent sentence and condign punishment."