Crew on Pope Francis’s flight from Cuba to Mexico last Friday reported a laser beam incident, the airline has said in a statement.

The captain, Massimiliano Marselli, reported the laser sighting to the control tower at Mexico City.

Alitalia flight AZ4000 was travelling from Havana with the Pope on board, and was preparing to land when the laser was spotted.

No crew or passengers were injured by the beam, the airline added.

“It is usual practice for the control tower to alert the competent, local authorities,” Alitalia said.

On Sunday, a Virgin Atlantic flight to New York from London Heathrow Airport turned back following take-off after a laser was shone into the cockpit.

Virgin Atlantic said that the co-pilot reported feeling unwell and the return to London was a “precautionary measure”.

Nearly 9,000 incidents involving lasers and aircraft in the UK were reported to the country’s Civil Aviation Authority between January 2009 and June 2015.

‘Widespread’ problem

“This is yet another incident that shows how serious and widespread the issue of laser attacks on aircraft is,” said Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), in response to the case involving the Pope’s plane.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind and the potential to dazzle and distract pilots during critical phases of flight,” he told the BBC.

“Shining a laser at an aircraft is illegal and dangerous and puts all those on board and on the ground nearby at completely unnecessary risk.”

Mr McAuslan added that Balpa would like to see greater restrictions on the sale of all but the least powerful lasers.

The Pope has now completed his five-day tour of Mexico.