People are waiting near the departure gate at Gatwick airport, near London, the airport remains closed, with incoming flights delayed or diverted to other airports, after drones were spotted over the field last night and this morning.
A couple of drones swirling in the airspace around the London Gatwick Airport have wreaked havoc on the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers who have been delayed, diverted or stuck in the middle of the holiday.
As of noon Thursday in the land of the second busiest airport of the runways remain shut down. Those affected by the disruption flooded social media with images, and videos of troubled passengers along the corridors of the terminals.
The drones were first spotted Wednesday night, and more than 100,000 passengers was planned to be by Gatwick Thursday at 760 arriving and departing flights, an official said.
“We believe this is an intentional act to disrupt the airport,” Gatwick Police chief Inspector Justin Burtenshaw, told Sky News. “However, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest this is terror.”
Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said that about 10,000 people were affected by the closure by Thursday morning, 2,000 whose planes could take off from the airport of Gatwick, 2,000 to their points of origin and 6000 diverted to other airports in the Uk, in Paris and Amsterdam.
Woodroofe said at least one drone remained Thursday morning.
“As I stand here, there is a drone on my airport as we speak,” Woodroofe told Sky News, adding that “the police have a 20-units in search of the operator of that drone, and when they find it, they will bring them to justice, which is five years’ imprisonment for endangering an aircraft.”
A picture of the flight-tracking website Flight Radar 24 showed fire trucks and other vehicles, the slope of the runways of the airport looking for the drone. A video posted on Twitter showed a helicopter flying over Gatwick, the inspection of the lower lying areas.
But on some social media by the rays of the police and the airport officials for the treatment of the ongoing incident with the question of how the devices have managed to disrupt, such as a major airport for this long.
“I would like if my flight was suspended by something so petty. Especially at this time of the year,” a user posted on Twitter.
“Pathetic. Shoot for heaven’s sake,” said the other.
Woodroofe says to do that, however, is not an option, if the police advice is that it would be dangerous to try to shoot the drone down, because of what can happen to the stray bullets.”
The airport says in the meantime that anyone thinking about heading to Gatwick should reconsider — and that there are no flights in or out before 4 pm local time at the earliest.
“Please do not travel to Gatwick airport without checking the status of your flight with your airline, because there are large cancellations and delays today,” a message in a red box at the top of the airport’s website read. “We offer our apologies to all our passengers who are affected today, but the safety of our passengers and staff is our priority.”
These passengers have already complained that their Gatwick-bound flights landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities.
Luke McComiskie, who landed in Manchester — more than 160 miles of London said that the situation “was just chaos, and she had only two buses, and taxis charging people $760 to get to Gatwick.”
Andri Kyprianou of Cyprus, described “freeze” conditions of carriage for passengers who spent the night on Gatwick in the South Terminal. Her flight to Kiev was cancelled.
“I have not slept since yesterday morning. We are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, wearing all these layers for extra blankets,” she told the Associated Press.
“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in during the night. We saw people with disabilities on chairs. There were young children sleeping on the floor.”
Gatwick, about 30 miles south of London, sees more than 43 million passengers per year to the short – and long-haul destinations and serves as a major hub for the budget airline easyJet.
The ongoing drone incident Thursday is not the first time that something like this has happened at Gatwick. The airport closed briefly his job last year, when a drone was spotted in the area. An errant drone also briefly led to the closure of the International Airport of Dubai in October 2016.
Pilots have reported numerous near-misses with drones in the past few years in great Britain and the aviation authorities have warned that there is a growing risk that a midair collision could lead to a major disaster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.