Gatwick runway reopens after drone-related shutdown

The airport allows a “limited number” of scheduled flights to arrive and depart

After almost 36 hours of a forced shutdown, London’s second largest airport, Gatwick, has reopened its runway.

Gatwick has scheduled around 700 departures for today — gabriele gelsi / Shutterstock Gatwick runway reopens after drone-related shutdown
Gatwick has scheduled around 700 departures and arrivals for today — gabriele gelsi / Shutterstock

The operation was temporarily ceased on Wednesday after a suspicious-looking drone appeared in the airspace around the facility. However, as the owner of the drone has not yet been found, the airport allows only a “limited number” of scheduled arrivals and departures.

“We are currently working with airlines and air traffic controllers to introduce a limited number of flights over the coming hours,” the airport said in a statement.

According to the airport’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick has scheduled around 700 departures for today.

“Our advice to our passengers is to check with their airline on each of those flights that they’re intending to get, to establish whether it’s one of the flights that’s being operated or one of the flights that’s being cancelled, before they come to the airport,” Woodroofe said.

“I’d just like to apologise to all of those affected over the last 36 hours 120,000 passengers who were due to fly to their destinations or arrive into Gatwick who have not travelled,” he added.

The drone that caused the temporary shutdown appeared in the Gatwick’s airspace more than 50 times over the 24 hours on Wednesday. So far, the “unprecedented” disturbance has affected more than 120,000 passengers.

To the question why the airport resumes with its operation despite the drone and its owner not being identified, Woodroofe replied:  “We have been working overnight with the police, with a number government agencies and with the military to put in place additional mitigating measures which have enabled me to reopen our airport.”

According to Sussex Police assistant chief constable, Steve Barry, the incident has been “unprecedented” in the area, but the police now has “a number of options” around the airport’s perimeter to help prevent further disruption.