- People slept on grounded planes and on airport floors after London’s Gatwick Airport was forced closed by rogue drones on the runway.
- The runway has been closed for more than 24 hours, affecting at least 10,000 people Wednesday night alone.
- One passenger shared a photo of people sleeping on his grounded plane, where he said there were “bodies sleeping on every seat and across the floors.”
- Another woman said she and her children had to sleep on the floor of the terminal overnight.
People slept on grounded planes and terminal floors after a major British airport was forced closed because of someone flying drones over the runway.
More than 65,000 people were affected by the closing of Gatwick Airport, a major airport serving London.
Christopher Lister, who was flying to Gatwick Airport from Kiev, Ukraine, said on Twitter that his flight was diverted to another UK airport, where passengers were unable to leave the plane.
“Bodies sleeping on every seat and across the floors,” he said, describing the scene.
Flight from Kiev to #Gatwick was due to land last night at 21.45. We landed in Birmingham airport. Now almost 4am, still on the plane, no food or updates from our crew. Not allowed to disembark. Bodies sleeping on every seat and across the floors. ????????????❤️✈️ #GatwickAirport pic.twitter.com/nBrPquEGFM
— Christopher Lister (@Listy_cl) December 20, 2018
Lister told Business Insider his flight waited at Birmingham Airport for about four hours with the intention of flying back to Gatwick, but further drone sightings meant this wasn’t possible. He said they were able to leave the airport at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, roughly six hours after they landed.
He said there were children and women feeding their babies on the flight.
The Guardian newspaper also spoke with passengers who slept on a plane that waited for four hours before eventually not taking off.
“At 9 p.m. yesterday we were on the plane for four hours – they turned the lights off and everything like it was going to take off,” the passenger told The Guardian. “But we were still sitting there.”
Passengers were offered hotels overnight, Chris Woodroffe, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, said on the BBC’s “Today” program. But many passengers slept on the terminal floor and in chairs on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Under European Union law, it is the airline’s responsibility to offer passengers accommodation if flights are delayed overnight. But passengers are unlikely to get compensation if the flight is canceled for reasons that are outside the airline’s control.
The airline should give refunds and find you an alternative flight, but there may be few timely flights available during the busy festive period.
Yulia Hristova, who was supposed to fly to Istanbul via Kiev, spent the night in the airport with her two children and told the Press Association she slept on the floor. “We were sleeping on the floor, me and my children. I lost my son during the night, and a policeman brought him back,” she said.
“It’s been an emotional disaster. I’m so exhausted, I don’t want to stress out but it’s very worrying. What’s going to happen to us in Ukraine? What if we run out of money? Are the airline going to put us in a hotel?”
Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, who was on a visit to London, said a pregnant woman was sleeping on the floor, the BBC reported.
“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor,” she said.
“There were people with small babies in here overnight, we saw disabled people on chairs. There were young children sleeping on the floor.”
Woodroffe apologised to passengers and said the airport was working with airlines to build a schedule for redirected flights and to inform passengers.
“We apologise to any affected passengers for this inconvenience, but the safety of our passengers and all staff is our number one priority,” Gatwick said in a statement.
Woodroffe told the BBC’s “Today” program that the knock-on effects would continue for days even after the airport reopened.
The airport is warning passengers not to travel to the airport before checking the status of their flight with their airline, while the police are hunting the drone operator, who could face a five-year jail sentence.
The police called the flyovers a “deliberate act” but said there were no indications they were related to terrorism.
Gatwick is the second-largest airport in the UK, with 56 airlines operating regularly and about 45 million passengers a year. The airport said it was expecting 2.9 million passengers over the festive period.
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