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Brighton Journal | 22nd October 2019

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Gatwick cancellations cause Christmas chaos with drone sightings

Gatwick cancellations cause Christmas chaos with drone sightings
Hannah Midgley

Flights from Gatwick Airport started to depart this morning with military action being taken in a desperate bid to locate the operator of the drones.

Illegal drone sightings have brought Gatwick Airport to a standstill over the past 36 hours with Sussex Police and the military being deployed to try and find the operator.

Cancelled flights, over 100,000 stranded passengers, hours of waiting, and hundreds of missed holidays; some flights are now taking off with a further 100 estimated to be cancelled today.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley, from Sussex Police specialist crime command, said: “Our assessment, based upon the information that we have available to us, is that this incident is not terrorism-related.”

Sussex Police have been working very closely with Gatwick Airport Limited and the Civil Aviation Authority, and are in close consultation with the government and other agencies to ensure people’s safety and to try and resolve the situation as swiftly as possible.

DCS Tingley also said: “This is a particularly challenging situation and my heart goes out to all travellers who have been affected by this criminal behaviour.”

Gatwick Airport has now been able to resume some flights today (Friday 21 December) following yesterday’s runway closure.

In a statement, Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive Officer of Gatwick Airport said: “[T]here are continued delays and cancellations as a result of the drone disruption yesterday.

“We strongly recommend that you check the status of your flight with your airline before setting out for the airport today.

“Our focus today is to get our operation back on track so that people can be where they need to be for Christmas, and we will update as more information becomes available throughout the day.

“[W]e apologise to our passengers for the continued disruption while our flight schedule recovers from yesterday’s disruption.” 

Numerous people got in touch with Brighton Journal to say they had been affected by delays and cancellations at Gatwick Airport.

Kjetil Kalla, who was due to fly to Norway yesterday with Norwegian Airline when his flight was cancelled, will not be going home for Christmas.

When he tried to rebook online, the website crashed due to high numbers of users, and all flights then sold out.

Mr Kalla said: “Mr Kalla said: “I will get my money back but I have been unable to see my parents this Christmas. Other travelers have unfortunately been far worse affected than me.”

Sussi Lassen also had similar issues trying to get onto Norwegian’s website when her flight was cancelled: “I looked online and my flight was on time when I left home, I checked in and was given a small piece of paper with a number to reschedule the flight.”

Norwegian have been approached for comment.

Others due to travel this Christmas have said they will eventually reach their destination but through connecting flights, causing delays to their holidays.

It is illegal to fly domesticated drones higher than 120 metres or within a one-kilometre boundary of an airport.

Authorities have still not managed to locate the operator of the drones and continue to search in the area.

Anyone with information about the incident or who may have suspicions about the drone operators is asked to report online or call 101 quoting Operation Trebor.

If you see anyone acting suspiciously in the area of the airport, please dial 999 immediately.

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