Gatwick travel misery: runway reopens, suspects still at large
Gatwick Airport has reopened its runway on the morning of December 21, 2018, and is allowing a limited amount of flights to take off and land. The incident comes on the heels of what the airport expects to be the busiest day of travel. The suspect or suspects of the “deliberate” act are still at large, despite a full-blown police investigation, involving government and military assistance.
Gatwick Airport (LGW) reopened its runway at 6:00 am on December 21. Gatwick Airport’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, told the BBC that the "mitigating measures" received from the government and the military had given him "confidence to reopen".
Regularly updating its media statements, the airport announced on December 21, at 9:30 (GMT) through 12:00 (GMT): “Gatwick’s runway is now available and aircraft are arriving and departing. We are, however, expecting knock-on delays and cancellations to flights.”
Flights and travel plans of thousands of passengers and holiday makers were brought to a standstill for an entire day after drones were spotted over the airfield on the eve of December 19 and morning of December 20.
Outbound flights were grounded and inbound flights were being redirected all day yesterday, affecting over 120,000 passengers since the previous evening. Some passengers, however, were still turning up at the airport late on December 20, to try their luck for a departing fight.
Gatwick Airport CEO, Stewart Wingate, took upon himself to apologize all affected passengers for the disruptions, as can be seen in this Tweet:
“On behalf of everyone at Gatwick I would like to repeat how sorry we are for the inconvenience this criminal behaviour has caused passengers..." Read the full statement from our CEO, Stewart Wingate. https://t.co/M47tA37itJ pic.twitter.com/FB5nHOlHe5 — Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) December 20, 2018
Officials said around 700 aircraft were due to take off this Friday, December 21, according to Reuters. However, cancellations and delays are expected to continue well into the day, which is why Gatwick is advising passengers to check the flight status with their airlines before even going to the airport.
To soak up the overspill, flights and hotels have been overbooked. Night flying restrictions were also lifted to ease the strain on air traffic control systems and soften the knock-on effect across UK and Europe, as a significant number of flights were being diverted to other airports.
Meanwhile, efforts of the airport’s officials and local police were focused on finding the drones and its operator: the airport could not operate while the drones were in flight for safety reasons.
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