Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Relief as Gatwick drone chaos passengers touch down in Belfast

Jessica and mum Jayne Robinson
Jessica and mum Jayne Robinson
Alana Menary.
Shonda Warner from Kansas
Laura and Chris Mawer with sons Alex and Theo and their granny Wendy McCrea
Colin and Niall King
Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

Passengers on the first flight to arrive in Northern Ireland from Gatwick since drone activity closed the runway of the UK's second busiest airport have spoken of their relief.

Flight EZY833 may have arrived 40 minutes late at Belfast International Airport yesterday afternoon, but the fact that it touched down at all felt like a godsend to passengers and their families who had feared disruption to their Christmas holiday plans.

Cookstown native Laura Mawer (33), a secondary school teacher, flew home with her sons Alex (4) and Theo (2) and husband Chris, a software engineer.

"We live about half-an-hour away from Gatwick, and when we arrived the place was nearly deserted, no queues whatsoever," she said. "Within 10 minutes we had dropped off our luggage and we were through, and there were no issues.

"We were anticipating being there for hours and hours and hours because of the way it's been shown in the news.

"We were up until about 1am panicking, thinking: 'Should we look at boats, should we try and get alternative arrangements?'

"But then we thought we'd see what happens, and if it comes to it, jump in the car and go to Wales and see if we can go to Dublin.

"Thankfully we didn't have to. It was out of everyone's hands and it was just a case that it was what it was.

"I'm relieved to be back - I will be spending Christmas with my family in Cookstown."

Downpatrick computer programmer Colin King (40) arrived with his son Niall (4), wife Carol and daughter Eleri (8 months).

"The flight was fine, it was slightly delayed but that's not uncommon," he explained.

"Relative to what we were worried about, Gatwick was very quiet. It was not the Armageddon that I was anticipating.

"We were expecting significant queues, but there weren't many. We were worried it was going to be cancelled, but if it had been cancelled we would just have tried to fly next week.

"That would have been unfortunate, we would have missed Christmas."

Bath University student Jessica Robinson (22), from Lisburn, revealed that she had made the fortuitous decision a fortnight ago to reschedule her flight home from Thursday, when all flights were cancelled, to yesterday.

"I'm very happy the flight was changed two weeks ago, and very happy to be home," she said. "I was praying that the flight would go ahead.

"I think it's just really sad that all those people yesterday couldn't get their flights, especially at this time of year. People just want to get home to see their families and friends." Her mum Jayne (52) said it was a "wee miracle" that Jessica had managed to get back. "I have two girls and two boys, and all the chicks are home now, she is the last one to come home," she said.

"She hasn't been home since September so we're very glad she's back."

Kansas City native Shonda Warner (54) was flying in to spend Christmas with friends in Finnebrogue. "It was very quiet at the airport and very easy to check in," she said. "I think it was because there were so many flights cancelled.

"Fortunately I wasn't affected by the delays, but I feel very, very sorry for all the people who were yesterday."

Primary school teacher Alana Menary, who lives in London, had travelled home for Christmas in Castledawson. "I checked yesterday afternoon and it didn't look good," she said. "Gatwick Airport wasn't as busy as I thought it was going to be, I think because people had checked and didn't go.

"But some of my friends who were flying internationally had their flights cancelled, they ended up at Heathrow, they were sent there rather than Gatwick.

"I was worried I wasn't going to get home for Christmas. The flight didn't go on time, but it went anyway.

"I feel so glad to be home."

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