The drone was within 20 metres of the easyJet Airbus A320, violating airspace restrictions. Air traffic control was alerted by an officer who identified the drone whilst the crew kept visual contact until the threat had passed. According to The Independent, there have been 87 incidents involving drones in 2019 so far, with numbers expected to continue to increase.
This particular incident was classed as a Category A by the UK Airprox Board who concluded there was a “serious risk of collision”. Crew members on board the easyJet flight believe a collision would have been almost certain if the plane had been left on auto-pilot.
Following the drone incident that occurred in Gatwick last year, which disrupted over 140,000 people during the Christmas period, the government have put new laws and regulations into place.
Updates have been made by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who state from 30th November 2019 it is illegal to fly a drone without registering the equipment and passing a theory test. Drone operators who violate regulations could face severe penalties of up to five years in prison, a £1,000 fine, or both.
Drones can cause a number of serious issues for travellers; from flight delays and cancellations to emergency landings and crashes. If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to a drone, you should speak to your airline who are responsible for rebooking you on the next available flight or providing you with a refund of any unused tickets. Food and overnight may also be supplied by the airline if necessary. Unfortunately, compensation will not be paid to passengers who are affected by drones as this is classed as an extraordinary circumstance and something which is outside of the airlines control.
If your airline is unable to depart because of a drone, and your travel insurance policy covers departure delay, you may be covered to claim a small amount of compensation from your travel insurer. More information on departure delay cover can be found here. Most travel insurance policies will also offer to cover the cost of cancellation if you have been delayed for more than 24 hours and the airline has not offered you any alternative travel option; this will be under the trip disruption section of your travel insurance policy.
If you have booked a package holiday and are unable to reach your holiday destination due to drone action you may be covered to cancel the holiday. But you will need to speak directly to the company you have booked your holiday with as their terms and conditions will differ.
More information can be found on the gov.uk website on the legal requirements of owning and flying a drone.