Drones Shutdown London Airport Causing Christmas Travel Chaos
Britain sent troops to its second-biggest airport after an unprecedented attempt to cripple Christmas travel with large drones forced all flights to be cancelled on Thursday.
As thousands of passengers waited at Gatwick Airport, south of London, police hunted unsuccessfully for the operators of the large drones which reappeared near the airfield every time the airport tried to reopen the runway.
Police said there was no indication of a terrorism motive behind the devices, which first appeared on Wednesday night.
“We will be deploying the armed forces,” Defence Minister Gavin Williamson told reporters.
“We are there to assist and do everything we can.”
By 1700 GMT, easyJet the biggest operator at Gatwick, said it had cancelled all flights on Thursday because it did not know when the runway would reopen.
The airport said flights would remain shut down until further notice on a day when 115,000 people were scheduled to pass through, many en route to seasonal breaks.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman condemned the standoff as “irresponsible and completely unacceptable”.
Passenger Ani Kochiashvili had been bound for Georgia but spent six hours overnight sitting on a plane with her children.
“I’m very annoyed because I’m with two kids, a three-month-old and three-year-old,” she told Reuters by phone among thousands camped in the terminal.
“They require a lot of space and food and changing and all that, and the airport is crazy busy so it’s challenging.”
Flights were halted at 2103 GMT on Wednesday after two drones were spotted near the airfield, triggering the biggest disruption at Gatwick since a volcanic ash cloud in 2010.
Police said more than 20 units were hunting the operators near Gatwick airport, 50 km south of London.
Transport minister Chris Grayling said it was clearly a deliberate act. “This is a commercial-sized drone,” he said.
“Every time Gatwick tries to re-open the runway, the drones reappear.”
Grayling temporarily lifted night-flying restrictions at other airports to ease congestion caused by diverted aircraft, Sky News reported.
Featured Image: Reuters.