Simon Calder and Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Sun, 14 May 2023 at 4:27 pm BST
Flights from Gatwick Airport were halted this afternoon due to reports of drone activity close to the airspace.
At least 12 inbound flights were diverted away from Gatwick for almost an hour while an investigation took place into the suspected drone.
One departing passenger, Tarquin Cooper, tweeted: “Are you aware Gatwick is closed due to drone activity? Been sitting on tarmac for last hour.”
Seven easyJet arrivals were diverted – five to Luton, one to Southend and another to Bristol.
British Airways’ arrivals from Faro and Palma touched down instead at Stansted. The Essex airport was also the unexpected destination for passengers flying on Vueling from Rome, Tui from Kavala and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul.
With planes and pilots out of position, and dozens of aircraft delayed leaving the Sussex airport, disruption will continue for the rest of the day. Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world, with little slack in the system when schedules unravel.
Passengers are not due cash compensation for such delays, as the disruption is beyond the airlines’ control. But if they are delayed overnight they must be provided with hotel accommodation and meals as necessary.
A Gatwick spokesperson said: “Passenger safety is the airport’s absolute priority and – following established procedures – operations at London Gatwick were suspended temporarily at 1.44pm while investigations into the sighting of a suspected drone close to the airfield took place.
“These investigations have now [been] completed and the airfield reopened at 2.35pm.
“Twelve inbound aircraft were diverted to other airports during the investigation, however, we expect many of these to return to London Gatwick today.”
Meanwhile, thousands of passengers seeking to travel between London and Paris have seen their trains cancelled by strikes in France.
Four trips from St Pancras International to Gare du Nord in the French capital have been cancelled during the afternoon and evening, with the same number axed from Paris to London.
Eurostar is telling passengers: “Due to short notice industrial action in France we have had to cancel some trains today. Our trains and stations are very busy. Please only come to the stations if your train is scheduled to run. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.”
In December 2018, 120,000 passengers were affected by delays and cancellations due to drones being repeatedly flown over Gatwick Airport, with all flights grounded for at least 33 hours ahead of the Christmas getaway.