Gatwick airport disruption: police still trying to catch drones after flights cancelled – live
Thousands of passengers face disruption at Gatwick airport after drones were spotted over the runway
A decent travel insurance policy should cover the cost of travellers having to abandon their Christmas plans because of the drone situation at Gatwick – including hotel and car hire cancellation at their destination – but as always with insurance the devil is in the detail.
The airline cannot be held liable for payouts under the EU 261 rules, as this is a situation beyond their control. What the airline should offer you is either a refund for the flight only, or a promise to put you on the next available flight, or alternative routing.
Prospect, the largest union representing engineers, has added to calls for tougher regulations against drones.
Garry Graham, its deputy general secretary, said:
“The drone disruption at Gatwick comes as little surprise to those in the aviation industry who have been arguing that the lack of effective regulation and enforcement is an accident waiting to happen.
“Prospect, alongside other aviation unions, has been arguing at a UK and European level for a tough regulatory framework supported by a robust enforcement regime. Without things like geofencing, drone registration and training, backed up by greater publicity of the laws and adequately-resourced enforcement, this kind of event will only become more common.
Much of the misery in Gatwick this morning is centred on a near 300-metre-long, slowly moving queue for the Norwegian Airlines information desk, at which a single member of staff is dealing with passengers queries.
“I’m hoping there’s an earlier flight because I have no place to stay and I don’t have any money.”
“Patience is a virtue, that’s what my mum tells me. But I think I’m going to crack up by hour five.”
Here’s what we know so far:
Police continue to search for drones on the runway.
A mother said she has suffered an “emotional disaster” after spending the night on a cold floor with her eight-year-old-daughter and three-year-old son, PA reports.
Yulia Hristova, who was meant to fly to Istanbul via Kiev at 3am and has been at the airport since midnight, said:
“With two kids I’m in a difficult position, I’m so tired, I’m so upset, we’ve had no information.
“We were standing for hours, nobody’s been on the desk. It was so cold. We were sleeping on the floor, me and my children. I lost my son during the night, and a policeman brought him back.
Labour says the government has been too slow at address safety concerns about drones.
Shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald said: “Events at Gatwick Airport highlight the urgent need for clear rules on the use of drones near airports. There has been growing concern over the increasing number of near misses between drones and manned aircraft and the government has been too slow to act.
Transport minister, Baroness Sugg, is due to give a statement about the disruption at Gatwick, in an update to the House of Lords at 11.35am.
I have just granted a PNQ from Baroness @jennyranderson to ask @transportgovuk Minister, Baroness Sugg, what the HMG response is to the disruption at @Gatwick_Airport caused by drone activity. Watch from 11.35am here: https://t.co/86Hwdwg8GN #drones #Gatwick
Sussex Police is asking for the public’s help in locating the Gatwick drone operator.
#GatwickDrones | We are appealing for information to help us identify the operators of the #Gatwick #drones. If you know who’s responsible or have any information please call 999 and quote ref 1350-19/12. Please RT pic.twitter.com/jkcakBohMr
There is barely enough space for passengers to navigate trolleys piled high with luggage around the check-in desks , as passengers just arriving at the airport are told on information screens that there would be no flights until at least 11am.
Arthur Serbejs, 22, and Domante Balciuniate, 21, factory workers from Hastings, sat on the floor by a prayer room, approaching their 16th hour of waiting for a flight to Barcelona.
“We came about 6pm yesterday, and we’re going to be here until like 7pm,” Serbejs said. “At 9pm yesterday we were on the plane for four hours – they turned the lights off and everything like it was going to take off.”
“Maybe there’s another drone up there, but we have hope. There’s a prayer room over there, we were thinking about going.”
PA has also been talking to some of the thousands of passengers disrupted by the incident.
Sussex Police confirmed there are no indications to suggest the drone incident is terror related.
#GatwickDrones | We are carrying out a joint search w/ @Gatwick_Airport for the operators of #drones sighted at #Gatwick. Public safety is paramount and we will take all available actions to disrupt this deliberate act. There are no indications to suggest this is terror related. pic.twitter.com/J36d0Xzo2G
Supt Justin Burtenshaw, Gatwick Airport policing commander, is in charge of trying catch the drone operator.
Speaking to BBC News, he said: “We are still getting sightings of the drone in and around the airfield. I have got over 20 units from Surrey and Sussex and from the airport searching for the drone operator. We are exploring other options to try and bring this situation to a close.”
“Each time we believe we get close to the operator the drone disappears when we look to reopen the airfield the drone reappears, so I’m absolutely convinced it is a deliberate act to disrupt Gatwick airport.
There has been no intelligence that this is going to happen. This is just a random act that has happened overnight.
“I’m absolutely convinced it’s a deliberate act to disrupt #Gatwick Airport” – Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw says more than 20 police units are searching for the drone operatorhttps://t.co/wDW0Rtnkq1 pic.twitter.com/Fh98WmaCjL
More than 13 hours after a drone was first spotted over Gatwick the police are still trying to bring it down.
Transport minister Baroness Sugg “The police are working to bring the drone down, and I am confident that they will do so.”
Various techniques are available for combatting drones, including eagles:
LNER is offering those whose flights have been cancelled between Edinburgh and Gatwick free rail travel.
Has your flight between London #GatwickAirport and Edinburgh been cancelled today? If so, you can use your flight tickets to travel on our trains today for FREE. #HomeforChristmas https://t.co/iEB3oRh2Nv
Customers on cancelled flights will be entitled to a free of charge transfer to an alternative flight. Whilst the situation is outside of our control we would like to apologise to passengers for the inconvenience caused.
The Guardian’s Damien Gayle has been dispatched to Gatwick to monitor the chaos. Here’s the first of his updates:
If you’ve been affected by the events at Gatwick and would like to share eyewitness accounts or news tips, anonymously if you prefer, with our journalists then please do so via the form here. The form is encrypted and your responses are only seen by the Guardian. You can also contact the Guardian via WhatsApp by adding the contact +44(0)7867825056.
Tory MP Henry Smith MP, whose Crawley constituency borders Gatwick, said drone activity at the airport “appears to a be deliberate criminal act”. He is calling for tougher sentences against illegal drone operators. “The sentence is now 5 years in prison but further efforts are clearly required,” he tweeted.
The closure of Gatwick Airport for 12 hours now due to drone flying appears to be a deliberate criminal act with geofencing breached. I’ve previously raised this issue in Parliament and will be again. The sentence is now 5 years in prison but further efforts are clearly required.
Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, who had been visiting London, said she saw a pregnant woman sleeping on the floor and passengers with infants spending the night in the “freezing” South Terminal, PA reports.
She said she got to the airport at 12.30am for a 3am flight to Cyprus via Kiev, only to find it had been cancelled, and that the next connection in Kiev is on Sunday.
“I haven’t slept since yesterday morning, we are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets.
“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight, we saw disabled people on chairs.
Here’s the grim looking arrivals board at Gatwick, courtesy of PA.
Ten thousand passengers have suffered flight chaos after the runway at Gatwick Airport was closed due to drones being flown nearby pic.twitter.com/Lt2k9jz21d
Gatwick is now expected to be closed until at least 12pm, according to Airlive citing the European aviation agency Eurocontrol.
UPDATE London Gatwick closure now extended till 12.00 UTC https://t.co/mA8kWbsU0D
The government has condemned the operators of the drones as acting “incredibly irresponsibly”.
Aviation minister Baroness Sugg said:
“These drones have been flown illegally and the operators, who have acted incredibly irresponsibly, could face up to five years in jail.
“We are in close contact with Gatwick Airport as they work with police to safely resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg: “These drones have been flown illegally and the operators, who have acted incredibly irresponsibly, could face up to five years in jail.” https://t.co/D1buFJyIOL
Pilots said the Gatwick incident highlights the need for tougher laws against drones.
Dr Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), said:
“The public needs to understand that drones are not just toys and could have catastrophic consequences if they collide with an aircraft.
We know a lot of drones will be under people’s Christmas trees and we implore them to ensure they’re aware of the rules and fly their drones in a safe and sensible manner.”
“These drone sightings at Gatwick are further evidence that we need the registration and education process in force sooner rather than later, so people flouting the law can be caught and prosecuted.” https://t.co/VkADrTDttV
Gatwick is to remain closed until at least 11am according Airlive.
ALERT London Gatwick to remain closed till at least 11.00 UTC https://t.co/mA8kWbsU0D
Welcome to live coverage of the continuing travel disruption at Gatwick airport after drones over the runway caused flights to be suspended.
Chris Woodroofe, the airport’s chief operating officer, apologised to passengers and said the drones could not be shot down because of the risk of stray bullets causing harm.
Thursday 07.40: Flights to and from Gatwick remain suspended, due to drone activity. Please do not travel to the airport without checking with your airline first. We ‘re sorry for the inconvenience today, but the safety of our passengers and staff is our no.1 priority.
Source: Guardian Transport
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