As Gatwick Airport’s runway remains closed after sightings of drones in the area, one passenger told talkRADIO how the hold-up ended up costing him £100.
Terry Rodbart’s flight was diverted to Luton following the runway closures, which came after drones were spotted over the airfield at just after 9pm on Wednesday (December 19) evening.
The runway was closed, before reopening at around 3am on Thursday (December 20) morning - but 45 minutes later, it was closed again.
The last confirmed drone sighting was around 8.45am on Thursday morning.
Police are assisting airport security teams in locating the drones and their operators.
'This is serious'
Passengers wait for news on their flights inside Gatwick's South Terminal. Image: Toby Gilles
“We were coming into Gatwick and the captain said there was an incident, and there were 16 planes in front of us waiting to land,” said Mr Rodbart.
“Straight away we thought, ‘this is pretty serious’.
“We hovered around Cambridge for half an hour, and then amazingly flew into Luton Airport. I stayed in a hotel in Luton airport last night that cost me £100, I wasn’t expecting to pay that. But what are you supposed to do at one o’clock in the morning?”
Mr Rodbart counted himself lucky that he was diverted to an airport relatively nearby.
“It could have been Manchester, it could have been Birmingham, it could also have been Stansted which is even worse to get away from!” he said.
Other passengers told talkRADIO that they’d been in a queue for Norwegian Air flights for over four hours without moving, with some hoping to take their children to Lapland for Christmas.
Images taken inside the South Terminal showed static queues as passengers awaited news of their flights.
Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, Gatwick Airport policing commander, 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.”
A statement issued by Gatwick Airport on Thursday morning 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.”