Britain's Gatwick airport reopens after 6-hour shutdown over reports of drones

Britain's Gatwick airport reopens after 6-hour shutdown over reports of drones

Gatwick opened for business in 1958 and has since become the second biggest airport serving London
Gatwick Airport. (Photo: AFP)

LONDON: Flights at London's Gatwick airport resumed on Thursday (Dec 19) after the UK's second-busiest airport halted them for six hours to investigate reports of two drones flying over its airfield, inconveniencing passengers days before the Christmas holiday period.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Gatwick said it was focusing on working with the airport community to catch up on the flight schedule.

"Unfortunately, this incident has led to a number of flights being diverted to other airports and delays to flights departing from Gatwick. Our airlines have been working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport passengers landing at other airports to Gatwick by other means," the statement said.

Planes were earlier unable to depart, while a number of flights scheduled to land were diverted to other airports.

Gatwick apologised on Twitter to affected passengers, adding that safety was its "foremost priority".

An increase in near collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets has fuelled safety concerns in the aviation industry in recent years.

In Britain, the number of near misses between private drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the UK Airprox Board.

There were multiple reports of drone sightings since the initial report of two drones at 9.03pm local time on Wednesday (Thursday 5.03am, Singapore time), Gatwick said in an earlier statement.

Some passengers took to Twitter to express their annoyance over the situation.

"I have two tiny children on board and a hotel room at Gatwick to get to," one passenger whose flight was redirected, complained to British Airways on Twitter. The airline said earlier that the situation was not within its control.

Gatwick is 50km south of London and competes with Europe's busiest airport, Heathrow, 32km west of London.

"Our airlines are working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport passengers landing at other airports to Gatwick by other means, and Gatwick staff are looking after passengers in our terminals," the airport said.

Source: Reuters/ic

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