After having to ground flights for more than 33 hours, with only four days left until Christmas Day, Gatwick Airport is now in a position to allow a limited number of flights to arrive and depart.
On Wednesday evening a drone was spotted near the airfield and was continuously sighted until 9:30pm GMT on Thursday. The airport briefly opened for 45 minutes at 3:00am GMT on Thursday morning. London’s busiest airport was forced to ask for assistance from 20 police units and the military, but the drones operator/s has not been identified.
765 flights were scheduled to arrive and depart yesterday and thousands of passengers are still stranded in the terminals. More than 120,000 people were due to fly between Wednesday evening and now.
The first flight since the closure landed into Gatwick airport at around 6:00am GMT and since then two Easyjet and two British Airways flights have departed. Passengers due to fly over the next few days have been advised to continue to check their flight status before leaving for the airport.
Despite having to endure hours of disruption and disappointment, affected passengers will not be entitled to compensation from their airlines as this event has been classed, by the Civil Aviation Authority, as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ (an event in which the airline has no control over). Passengers may be able to claim compensation from their travel insurance.
Depending on the airline, some passengers may be entitled to hotel accommodation, refreshments, meals or transfers between airports.
So, what is the law when it comes to drones and airports?
It is a criminal offence, with a prison sentence of up to 5 years, for anyone to endanger the safety of an aircraft but after the record-breaking disruption many feel this sentence is not tough enough.
Although available for the public to purchase, recreational drones have set rules that operators must follow. These being; the drone must be in the operator’s sight at all times, it must not be flown within 50m of people, vehicles or buildings and it must not be flown higher than 400ft.
It is also illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield.
However, these rules do not seem to have had the desired effect. Back in 2013 there was zero reported incidents involving drones and aircraft but last year 100 reports were made.