760 flights diverted from Gatwick airport after drone scare, affecting 110,000 passengers

On Wednesday night, in a "deliberate act of disruption" (but not "a terror attack") someone flew a drone of "industrial specification" into the airspace of London Gatwick airport, the city's second-busiest, causing all flights in and out of the airport to be suspended; the disruption has affected 760 flights carrying 110,000 passengers (so far) and the ripple effect is expected to last for "several days."

Gatwick was caught flat-footed, and was unable to provide comfortable accommodation for those stuck in the airport overnight; passengers reported sleeping on the floor in freezing terminals. Other passengers were held in planes on the tarmac for several hours, unable to debark. Passengers who tried to leave the airport reported that the coaches that were promised to take them never materialised.

Citing the risk from stray shot, airport police chose not shoot down the drone.

Gatwick chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said: "The police are looking for the operator and that is the way to disable the drone."

He said police had not wanted to shoot the devices down because of the risk from stray bullets.

He said it remained unsafe to reopen the airport after the drone had been spotted too close to the runway.

Mr Woodroofe said: "If we were to reopen today we will first repatriate passengers who are in the wrong place which could take several days."

Gatwick Airport: Drones ground flights [BBC]