A Ryanair flight was forced to return to Stansted airport soon after taking off when a window fixed with sticky tape came loose mid air.

Ryanair has insisted safety was never at risk, but passengers said they were in fear of their lives.

The Ryanair flight was 20 minutes into a 1000-mile route to Riga, Latvia when a patch applied to the window had come loose and passengers reported hearing a “loud noise.

Before take-off, passengers had seen ground crews applying sticky tape to the cockpit window.

Passenger, Anthony Neal, 33, from Bromley, Kent, who was with a group of friends for his stag party, said: “They were taping up the front window as we were queuing to get on.

“One guy was up a ladder and another was hanging out of a side window of the cockpit.

“About 20 minutes into the flight the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said there was a problem with the windscreen – that it had been damaged on a previous flight and they’d have to turn back to Stansted.  People were terrified.”

The Boeing 737-800 took off on the evening of September 29 with around 200 passengers. A replacement plane was found after two hours .

The incident comes as the Micheal O’Leary, chief executive of the Dublin-based airline, outlined ambitious expansion plans to almost double the number of passengers to 130 million over the next decade, and stretch its reach across Europe.

The Irish Aviation Authority has investigated the Ryanair incident and said the tape was used to provide protection to sealant on a new window.

“At no time was passenger safety threatened,” a spokesperson for the company said.

O’Leary, said the Ryanair is in talks with plane makers Boeing, Comac in China, and Russia’s Irkut over the purchase of 200 to 300 new narrow-bodied aircraft to serve Scandinavia, the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

His previous cost-cutting suggestions have included charging to use the toilets on planes, removing a toilet, standing passenger space, and scrapping the role of the co-pilot.