A Ryanair flight from Brussels to Malta was disrupted after a violent brawl broke out between passengers at 30,000ft – forcing it to divert to Italy.

Footage shows aircrews trying to stop the fight between the men that became so heated an elderly woman was hit on the head and a stewardess was slapped in the face.

Passengers also were forced to intervene and strap the fighters down – reportedly members of the traveller community from Eastern Europe.

The pilot announced their behaviour was"not acceptable at all" before diverting the plane to Pisa in Italy on Thursday night (3 November).

Passenger Tommy Engerer, a Maltese software engineer, told The Sun: "The fight went on for so long we thought they might be trying to open the doors and might bring the plane down.

"It started when an elderly woman moved seats and told me they'd hit her on the head then a huge fight broke out when two Belgian men tried to intervene.

"They were attacking everyone around them and one of the men even slapped a stewardess in the face.

"It was chaos for about 10 minutes until there was an announcement that the plane was being diverted and passengers managed to restrain them with belts."

A Ryanair spokesman said: "This flight from Brussels to Malta diverted to Pisa after a number of passengers became disruptive inflight.

"The aircraft landed normally and four passengers were removed and detained by police upon arrival, before the aircraft continued to Malta."

He added: "We will not tolerate unruly or disruptive behaviour at any time and the safety and comfort of our customers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority. This is now a matter for local police."