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Gatwick Airport suspends flights after drone sightings

A further sighting of drones meant the airport had to be shut again at 3.45am.

The runway at Gatwick remains closed on Thursday morning following reports of drones flying close to the airport – despite briefly reopening overnight.

Thousands of travellers have been caught in the disruption with flights in and out of Northern Ireland affected. The airport now says it doesn't expect to reopen the runway until 10am at the earliest.

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after two drones were sighted near the airfield.

Gatwick announced that the runway had reopened at about 3am on Thursday – but just 45 minutes later it was shut again.

In a statement, the airport said: “Following reports of two drones flying over the Gatwick Airport airfield at around 9pm, the airfield was closed from 21.03 on Wednesday 19th December to 03.01 on Thursday 20th December.

“Unfortunately a further sighting of drones in the vicinity of the airport has forced the runway to be closed again from 03.45 as we investigate the sighting alongside Sussex Police.

“We will update when we have suitable reassurance that it is appropriate to reopen the runway.”

Passengers faced delays to their travels on Wednesday night as some flights were unable to leave the tarmac while others were diverted to alternative airports.

Some people reported being left stuck on planes for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on.

Gatwick advised anyone flying from the airport, or collecting someone, to check the status of their flight.

A spokeswoman added that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.

Lyndsey Clarke, from Southend on Sea, said she was stuck on a plane for more than four hours after it was re-routed to Stansted.

The 27-year-old said passengers were then having to get taxis back to Gatwick after they were finally allowed off the aircraft.

Luke McComiskie’s plane ended up in Manchester, and he described chaotic scenes as people tried to find their way home after more than three hours stuck onboard.

The 20-year-old from Aldershot told the Press Association: “We got told there would be some arrangements with coaches for us when we get out the terminal… it was just chaos and they had only two coaches and taxis charging people £600 to get to Gatwick.”

Joe Bond’s flight from Belfast was diverted to Birmingham, and he joked on Twitter: “From the sound of the stewards we might be staying here forever.”

He added: “Update. Got a free can of Coke and Pringles. Which has made the delay better.”

Flight tracking site Plane Finder said some flights had been put on a holding pattern over France.

It is understood two British Airways flights were diverted to Heathrow Airport.

Oana Damian tweeted that her flight had been diverted to London Heathrow but no-one could disembark as there were no customs and ground handling operations in place to deal with the plane.

Honor Ireland wrote: “Landed at Stansted when we should be at @Gatwick_Airport due to a supposed drone sighting – car is at Gatwick, fantastic! #gatwickairport”

John Belo said: “Plane should have departed an hour ago from @Gatwick_Airport – captain confirmed there are reports of a drone in the area … still waiting.”

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