A flight heading to New York turned back to London Heathrow Airport after a “laser beam incident”, Virgin Atlantic has confirmed.

A crew member is recorded saying to Irish air traffic control that they had a “medical issue with one of the pilots after a laser incident after take-off”.

It happened at 20:13 GMT, shortly after take-off, the company said, before flight VS025 returned as a precaution.

There were 252 passengers and 15 crew on board.

Metropolitan Police tweeted: “Aircraft forced to return to Heathrow after being hit by a laser strike… #laserstrike CAD4.”

‘Precautionary measure’

In a statement Virgin Atlantic said it was working with the authorities to identify the source of the laser.

It said: “The safety of our crew and customers is our top priority and we apologise for any inconvenience to those onboard.

“All customers will be offered overnight accommodation and we will get them on their journey as soon as possible.”

A new law introduced in 2010 means people could be charged with “shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle the pilot”.

A total of 414 “laser incidents” in the UK were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority between January and June 2015.

The highest number of them was at London Heathrow Airport – 48 were reported during this period.

In 2014, there were 1,440 incidents in the UK, with 168 at Heathrow, according to the CAA.

In the USA, CNN reported there were 20 incidents during one night in November last year.