The runway at London’s Gatwick Airport remains closed this morning following reports of drones flying close to the airport causing significant delays for passengers.
Sussex Police said the flying of drones at Gatwick is a “deliberate act to disrupt the airport”, but “there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror related”.
Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm last night after two drones were sighted near the airfield.
Gatwick announced that the runway had reopened at about 3am – but just 45 minutes later it was shut again.
Gatwick Airport has said: “Gatwick Airport’s runway remains closed and all flights are currently suspended following reports of drones flying over Gatwick’s airfield last night and this morning.
“There is significant disruption at Gatwick today as a result of what appears to be a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights.
“We are extremely disappointed that passengers are being affected by this, especially at such an important time of year. We are prioritising the welfare of those at the airport by deploying staff into our terminals to look after people as best we can.
“We are working hard with our airlines to get information to passengers but would advise anyone booked onto flights from Gatwick, or meeting arriving passengers, not to travel to the airport without checking the status of the flight with their airline or on our website first.
“We apologise for the continued inconvenience, but the safety of all passengers and staff is our first priority.”
Flights from New York, Barbados and Las Vegas, which were due to land at Gatwick this morning, were diverted to Shannon Airport.
One intending passenger said she has suffered an “emotional disaster” after spending the night on a cold floor at Gatwick with her eight-year-old-daughter and three-year-old son.
Yulia Hristova, who was meant to fly to Istanbul via Kiev at 3am and has been at the airport since midnight, said: “With two kids I’m in a difficult position, I’m so tired, I’m so upset, we’ve had no information.
“We were standing for hours, nobody’s been on the desk. It was so cold. We were sleeping on the floor, me and my children. I lost my son during the night, and a policeman brought him back.
“I was meant to be reunited with my family, my kids were so excited they didn’t sleep until 6am, they were waiting to get on the plane.
Passengers faced delays to their travels as some flights were unable to leave the tarmac while others were diverted to alternative airports.
Some people reported being left stuck on planes for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on.
A spokeswoman for the airport added that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.
Travel Extra editor Eoghan Corry said the disruption has a number of implications for passengers.
He said Gatwick is a big airport for Ireland with the country’s major airlines running through it.
Mr Corry said passengers impacted by the delays or any cancellations are entitled to compensation under EU regulation.
Passengers are entitled to a refund or be put on the next available flight, he said.
The regulation which provides for compensation, known as the EU261, applies to passengers who are due to fly from an EU member state, or to any EU state using an EU-based airline.
Under the regulation, if a flight is cancelled, the airline is required to pay cash compensation unless it was caused by extraordinary circumstances.
Mr Corry said that the regulation is applied in a contradictory fashion, however, as a number of EU countries differ on what constitutes as extraordinary circumstances.
He said however, that the issue in Gatwick, where drone sightings over the runways have caused them to close, would count as an extraordinary circumstance.
Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said drones had been spotted over the airport as late as 7am this morning.
He criticised the “irresponsible” act and 10,000 people had been affected by the closure, including 2,000 whose flights had been unable to take off.
He said there were two drones which had been seen flying “over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from”.