Gatwick airport drones: Stranded passengers tell of exhaustion amid travel chaos as kind-hearted strangers 'offer spare rooms' to those facing disruption
Passengers stranded at Gatwick Airport by the ongoing drone disruption are anticipating spending the night in the terminal after hotels in the area became fully booked.
It comes as those affected by the incident have told of families running out of food and trying to sleep in “freezing” terminals and crowded planes as they try to travel home for Christmas.
Kind-hearted residents living near the airport on Thursday offered up their spare beds to those facing continued disruption, which has affected tens of thousands of passengers.
No indication has been given about when the UK’s second busiest airport can reopen and easyJet has cancelled all flights to and from the West Sussex airport on Thursday.
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport (PA)
Carl and Lisa McCluskey, from Lincolnshire, found out from an air stewardess at Gatwick on Thursday that their flight to Egypt was delayed until further notice.
They have been told to check in with their airline Thomas Cook at 6am on Friday morning and, unable to check into a local hotel or make the three-hour journey home, face spending the night in the airport with their two daughters, aged seven and eight.
Mr McCluskey, 44, said: “It’s mindless idiots probably, they know what they’re doing to hundreds of thousands of people. They would have seen the disruption to come out again this afternoon.”
The family, travelling with Mrs McCluskey’s parents, said their two-week trip cost about £6,500.
Passengers wait for announcements at Gatwick (Getty Images)
Andri Kyprianou, from Cyprus, said she saw a pregnant woman sleeping on the floor and passengers with infants spending the night in the “freezing” South Terminal.
She said she got to the airport at 12.30am for a 3am flight to Cyprus via Kiev, only to find it had been cancelled and the next connection in Kiev is on Sunday.
She said: “I haven’t slept since yesterday morning, we are very tired. It’s freezing, we are cold, having to wear all of these coats for extra blankets.
“There were pregnant women, one of them was sleeping on the floor. There were people with small babies in here overnight, we saw disabled people on chairs.
“There were young children sleeping on the floor.”
Chris Lister, from Somerset, was travelling back from Kiev with his wife Freya.
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He was due to land at Gatwick at 9.45pm on Wednesday but ended up trapped on the plane on the tarmac at Birmingham Airport until 6am.
“There were quite a few babies and kids on board, I think they were struggling more than we were and one woman had run out of milk,” he said.
Passengers stranded at Gatwick airport which has been closed after drones were spotted (PA)
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.”
Passengers outside of the UK also faced being stranded after the drone disruption, with Emily on Twitter writing: “Stranded in New York because all flights to Gatwick have been cancelled.”
People wait in the departures area at Gatwick airport (AP)
Gemma Denny was among a handful of residents who offered a spare room to stranded passengers.
She said: “If there is anyone who is stuck at Gatwick due to the drones and needs a place to stay for the night we have a spare room close by and would be more than happy to put you up for free.”
On Thursday troops were sent to the UK’s second biggest airport after the unprecedented attempt to cripple Christmas travel was carried out.
As thousands of passengers waited at Gatwick, police hunted unsuccessfully for the operators of the drones which reappeared near the airfield every time the airport tried to reopen the runway.
Sussex Police said there was no indication of a terrorism motive behind the devices, which first appeared on Wednesday night and caused inbound flights to be redirected.
Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw, of Sussex Police, said: “We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related.”
Bride-to-be Tayo Abraham (centre) surrounded friends, part of the wedding party, at Gatwick Airport (PA)
“We will be deploying the armed forces,” Defence Minister Gavin Williamson added in a statement to reporters earlier on Thursday. “We are there to assist and do everything we can.”
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”.
Additional reporting by Press Association.