Gatwick Airport’s runway remains closed and all flights are currently suspended following reports of drones making numerous flights over Gatwick’s airfield since 2100 on Wednesday evening. It is estimated that more than 100,000 of journeys have already been disrupted as a result of what Gatwick described as a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights. Police and Army units are still investigating the sightings but have said that the incident is not thought to be terror related.
A Gatwick spokesperson commented: “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.”
Gatwick issued the following statement at 17:40 on Monday evening:
Gatwick Airport Media Statement – 17:40, Thursday 20th December
Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer, London Gatwick said:
“On behalf of everyone at Gatwick I would like to repeat how sorry we are for the inconvenience this criminal behaviour has caused passengers and we share their real anger and frustration that it has happened. This is a highly targeted activity which has been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas. We are working very closely with the police and the security services to try to resolve this for passengers.
“We hope passengers appreciate that we must and will always prioritise their safety over everything else. We are all working flat out to minimise inconvenience and have additional staff in both terminals assisting passengers who are waiting. Regrettably we are still not in a position to say when it will be safe to reopen the airport. As soon as we can we will.
“To recap the facts: We first had reports of two drones flying in and around the airfield at 21:03 last night. As a result, we took immediate steps to close the runway in accordance with our airport safety protocols. We obviously wanted to be in a position to reopen the airport again as quickly as possible. We are still receiving drone sightings in and around the Gatwick airfield. Therefore, until we are confident that the issue has been resolved it would clearly not be in the interests of passengers to do so as we could be jeopardising their safety.
“So regrettably, for the time being, the airport will remain closed as a result of this criminal activity. While some airlines have cancelled all flights up to 7pm tonight, we would encourage all passengers to check the latest information on their flights directly with their airline or on the Gatwick website.
“We are working hard with both the police and Government agencies as we seek to resolve this situation. We know that everyone, including Government, appreciates the severity of the situation and are very grateful for the active role that the police are taking to try and resolve this. We all recognise the urgent need to take the necessary steps that can lead to services getting back to normal as quickly as possible.
“Although not for today, these events obviously highlight a wider strategic challenge for aviation in this country which we need to address together with speed – the aviation industry, Government and all the other relevant authorities. It cannot be right that drones can close a vital part of our national infrastructure in this way. This is obviously a relatively new technology and we need to think through together the right solutions to make sure it cannot happen again.
“In the meantime all our focus is on sorting the current challenge and getting services back to normal for passengers. At the moment, I am not in a position to say with certainty when that might be but everyone is doing whatever they can to help make that happen.”
Gatwick issued a further statement at 23:00 on Thursday December 20:
“Gatwick’s runway will remain closed and all flights are cancelled for the rest of the evening because of continued drone sightings in and around the airfield.
Passengers due to fly from Gatwick should check the status of their flight with their airline and not travel to the airport if their flight is not confirmed.
We have called in additional staff right across the airport, many from Christmas leave, and are working tirelessly with police and security partners to halt this drone flying and thank passengers for their continued patience.
We share passengers’ real anger and frustration with the disruption and disappointment this criminal and reckless behaviour has brought at Christmas time, keeping them apart from family and friends.
Although a matter for a future time, we will work with the police to categorically ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice for this inconsiderate and illegal behaviour.”