Gatwick Airport has closed all runways and is telling incoming flights to redirect to suitable airports, after two drones were spotted in the airspace within 12 hours of each other. Police say they are being intentionally used to cause disruption.
The incident represents effectively a physical DDoS attack. Signal blocking tools being trialled in prisons to stop inmates smuggling in contraband by drone are challenging to implement in airports for obvious reasons.
Chaos has descended on the airport as the shut-down coincides with the busy Christmas travel period. Airport authorities at Gatwick have advised all airlines to cancel flights up to at least 9pm tonight, with reopening deadlines pushed back through the day.
14.15: Our runway is still closed because of drone sightings. Flights are cancelled up to at least 16.00 today, while we constantly review the situation. Please do not set out for the airport for your flight without checking with your airline first. We're sorry for the disruption
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) December 20, 2018
The airport is taking no chances and has told passengers their welfare and safety will come first. In a statement from Gatwick Airport managers they have said that they anticipate the disruption to continue for the rest of today and have not ruled out that tomorrow could be significantly affected as well.
They stated that: “Any passengers due to fly today or tomorrow should not set off for Gatwick without checking flight information with their airline.”
“We are extremely disappointed that what appears to be deliberate action is affecting journeys at this important time of year. We are working tirelessly with our airlines to put plans in place to recover our operation once given the go ahead that our runway can re-open.”
Passenger are left stranded in the airport as flights are now cancel and many find them selves on planes that have been redirected to other airports in the UK. Some flights which had just left destinations in Europe had to turn back towards the mainland once Gatwick informed them they would not be able to land.
This is France, we are blocked here it’s 3:30 with babies, France don’t want as to cross the borders cause of a situation that se didn’t choice. A problem in Gatwick caused by a flying drone. All the UK airports are closed, they decided to land in Paris for the night. #gatwick pic.twitter.com/naZPlyz8G7
— Joseph OUECHEN (@josephouechen) December 20, 2018
Gatwick Airport Shutdown
Prime Minister Theresa May was speaking at an event when she addressed the Gatwick shut-down expressing that she feels sorry for all the passengers caught up in the disruption.
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) December 20, 2018
Theresa May also commented that: We have already passed legislation in relation to the use of drones. As it has been made clear, the activity we have seen is illegal and those who are caught endangering aircraft can face up to five years in prison. And we’re consulting on further aspects of this including further police powers.”
“We will continue to work with the Gatwick authorities in order to bring this to a close such that people will be able to get on to the travel that they were expecting over the Christmas.”
On Thursday around 760 flights were scheduled to use the airport which would have seen 110,000 passengers pass through its doors, all of which are now left to make other arrangements