London’s Gatwick Airport has suspended all flights after two drones were spotted flying near its runway last night and this morning.
The runway closure has led to uncertainty for thousands of passengers just days before the Christmas holiday season.
All incoming flights have been diverted to other UK airports, including London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities and nearby countries, including France and the Netherlands.
Police and aviation authorities were investigating the drone attack.
Flights at the airport were initially suspended at around 9pm last night following the sightings of two drones near the airfield.
The runway reopened at around 3am on Thursday, but closed again in less than an hour, reported The Telegraph.
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Given the peak holiday season, the air traffic control system is already under pressure. Gatwick is the UK’s second busiest airport and located 43km south of London.
In a statement, airport authorities said: “Gatwick Airport’s runway remains closed and all flights are currently suspended following reports of drones flying over Gatwick’s airfield last night and this morning.
“There is significant disruption at Gatwick today and we are prioritising the welfare of those at the airport by deploying staff into our terminals to look after people as best we can.
“We are working hard with our airlines to get information to passengers but would advise anyone booked onto flights from Gatwick, or meeting arriving passengers, not to travel to the airport without checking the status of the flight with their airline. We apologise for the continued inconvenience, but the safety of all passengers and staff is our first priority.”
In recent years, there have been reports of drones almost hitting commercial aircraft in London. With the increase in sales of consumer drones, the possible threat to flights has also reportedly increased.
The airport’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe has warned that those responsible for the ‘irresponsible’ actions are likely to be jailed for five years.
Woodroofe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that around 10,000 people have so far been affected by the airport closure.