A flight between Ireland and Crete was diverted and five people removed by police after a fight broke out on board.

An eyewitness who was on the plane when it was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Venice last night said a man began smashing overhead compartments.

Aoife O'Reilly, one of the 167 passengers on the Futura Gael flight 2815 from Dublin to Heraklion, Crete, said those responsible had been drinking.

"We were up in the air and two guys — who were surprisingly a lot older than us — started fights," she said.

"Then we had to be redirected to Venice for a couple of hours. The police came on and had to get them off.

"They had a couple of drinks on them, they were extremely aggressive. One of the guys half-way through the flight stood up and started smashing the overhead compartments."

Italian border police based at Marco Polo airport in Venice said the men wereall Irish and aged between 25 and 30.

They were not arrested but put on a plane back to Ireland, the authorities said.

Dublin-based Futura Gael, which runs charter flights to holiday destinations, apologized to passengers who were delayed by several hours.

"The incident occurred in Italian airspace at approximately 10 p.m. Irish time, where a number of passengers were involved in an incident on board," said a spokesman.

"The captain then made the decision, for the safety of all on board, to divert to Venice, where the aircraft was met by members of the Italian police.

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