Update: Drone use which forced Gatwick runway closure is ‘deliberate act’

Update: Drone use which forced Gatwick runway closure is ‘deliberate act’

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Update: 10.50

The flying of drones at Gatwick, which has caused the runway to be closed, is “a deliberate act to disrupt the airport”, police said.

Tens of thousands of passengers are suffering travel chaos after all flights at the West Sussex airport were suspended.

The runway was closed at 9pm on Wednesday after two of the devices were seen near the airfield.

It was reopened at 3am on Thursday, but was shut again 45 minutes later after a further sighting of drones.

At 9.15am, the airport said there was “ongoing drone activity” and the runway remained closed.

Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw of Sussex Police said: “We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror related.”

Some 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night, and a further 110,000 were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.

Earlier: 10.30:

Passengers stranded by the chaos at Gatwick Airport have told of families running out of food and trying to sleep in “freezing” terminals and crowded planes as they try to travel home for Christmas.

Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, said she saw a pregnant woman sleeping on the floor and passengers with infants spending the night in the “freezing” South Terminal.

I haven’t slept since yesterday morning, we are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets

She said she got to the airport at 12.30am for a 3am flight to Cyprus via Kiev, only to find it had been cancelled and the next connection in Kiev is on Sunday.
She said: “I haven’t slept since yesterday morning, we are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets.

“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight, we saw disabled people on chairs.

“There were young children sleeping on the floor.”

She said she will have to spend a night in Kiev, but she had been told by Ukraine International Airlines that there may be a chance of an alternative connection through Tel Aviv.

“Hopefully they will arrange a hotel for us so we don’t have another night in an airport,” she added.

Chris Lister, from Somerset, who owns an online business, was travelling back from Kiev with his wife Freya.

He was due to land at Gatwick at 9.45pm on Wednesday but ended up trapped on the plane on the tarmac at Birmingham Airport until 6am.

“There were quite a few babies and kids on board, I think they were struggling more than we were and one woman had run out milk,” he said.

After starting his journey in Bangkok on Tuesday he was finally let off the plane at 6am, he said.

A Gatwick spokesman said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.

He was unable to say how many had already been affected but the first wave of flights is normally the busiest time of the day.

Around 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night after the runway was closed at 9.03pm.

Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport if their flight is cancelled.

Joseph Ouechen, a photographer from Morocco, was due to fly into Gatwick on Wednesday night but had his flight diverted to Paris.

After arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport at midnight, passengers with visas for the Schengen area were taken to a hotel but those without – “about 20%” – were left in the airport to fend for themselves, he said.

“There were families with babies who couldn’t get to their suitcases for their milk and stuff,” he said.

“We were asking just for a favour if (airport staff) could help but they said they couldn’t do anything.”

Firefighters eventually crossed the border through passport control with blankets and water at 3.30am, he said.

“To be honest, I’m so tired and when the guys from the fire (service) came with the bottles and blankets I was feeling like a war, like (I was) a refugee, but I’m just flying to the UK.

“It’s surreal. I was flying to the UK and now there are firemen bringing me water and blankets.”

Mamosta Abdulla said he was on an Iraq-bound flight on Wednesday evening before getting stuck on the tarmac for four hours.

He will miss his father’s memorial service, he said.

We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands. But here some drones have shut down the airport

“We got here at 6pm and should have flown at 9.10pm, but we were stuck four hours on the plane with a crying baby, the child was disabled and everyone was sweating because it was so hot in there,” he said.

Passengers were given a £12 voucher for food, he added, but were left to sleep “in a freezing place on uncomfortable chairs”.

“We are in Iraq with bombs going off nearby and the plane still lands. But here some drones have shut down the airport.”

Earlier: A number of Irish flights to London Gatwick have not taken off this morning after the airport was closed because of multiple drone sightings.

A number of flights from Gatwick to Dublin have also been delayed this morning, while more flights have started diverting to Shannon after the illegal drone activity in the vicinity of the British airfield.

Two drones were spotted near Gatwick’s runway, disrupting flights to the airport and grounding outgoing ones.

Since all flights were suspended for a second time at 3.45am, flights have already been forced to divert airport in the UK, France and Ireland. Three British Airways flights have made unscheduled landings at Shannon Airport.

Flights from Las Vegas and Bridgetown (Barbados) have already diverted to Shannon with no indication yet when passengers will continue to Gatwick. A Norwegian Air flight from New York to Gatwick also diverted to Shannon this morning.

All flights to and from Gatwick have been suspended due to the drones in the airfield, the airport has said.

“Unfortunately, there are significant delays and cancellations to all flights today,” it said in an update on Twitter.

“Please do not travel to the airport without checking the status of your flight with your airline first. We apologise to everyone affected, but the safety of all our passengers and staff is our no.1 priority.”

A Gatwick spokesman said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights today.

He was unable to state how many of these passengers had already been affected but the first wave of flights is normally the busiest time of the day.

Around 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night after the runway was closed at 9.03pm.
Passengers are advised not to travel to the airport if their flight is cancelled.

Earlier:

Thousands of passengers affected as drone causes Gatwick runway closure.

Ten thousand passengers have suffered flight chaos after the runway at Gatwick Airport was closed due to drones being flown nearby.

Flights in and out of the UK’s second busiest airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after two of the devices were seen near the West Sussex airfield.

Gatwick announced the runway had reopened at about 3am on Thursday, but 45 minutes later it was shut again after a further sighting of drones.

Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said drones had been spotted over the airport as late as 7am today.

He blasted the “irresponsible” act, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that 10,000 people had been affected by the closure, including 2,000 whose flights had been unable to take off.

He said two drones had been seen flying “over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from”.

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