At least 44 flights diverted to Stansted in flight chaos caused by rogue drones

Aircraft arriving at Stansted Airport

Aircraft arriving at Stansted Airport - Credit: Stansted Airport Ltd

Today is the busiest travel day of the year, and Stansted airport is still reeling from the disruption caused by drones flown over Gatwick Airport.

Around 1.2 million passengers are expected to travel through Stansted this festive period, with numbers boosted by the 44 flights being forced to land at Stansted instead of Gatwick this week.

One passenger of a Ryanair flight that was scheduled to depart from Stansted to Lisbon at 9.35am this morning said passengers are still stuck on the plane waiting for take off. Joao Pinheiro said: “@RyanairFlights @ryanair could you please bring some water to flight FR1884 #FR1884 we are stuck inside the plane and your crew does not give any water to your customers! And start preparing compensation money. Thanks you #Ryanair #stansted +3 hours delay.”

He explained to this newspaper that the plane had now to give way to another plane, so passengers are being moved to an unknown location in the airport. “There are babies on board,” he added.

On Wednesday, Stansted received 11 diverted flights overnight when the runway at Gatwick closed.

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Police had to board one diverted plane flying from Sal, Cape Verde to deal with panicked passengers, who were still unable to disembark four hours after it landed at Stansted.

One passenger, Kato, tweeted: “What a trip so far. Diverted from #gatwick_airport to #Stansted, sat on plane for four hours. Old guy gets up claims to be a terrorist and opens the door! Police take him off. 03.30am we are allowed off to sort our way back to Gatwick. Taxi paid for by airline.”

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On Thursday, Ryanair operated six additional flights from Stansted for Gatwick passengers and in the early hours of this morning, two TUI aircraft arrived into Stansted that had been due in to Gatwick.

Today - which according to Skyscanner flight data is the busiest day of the year for outbound travel from the UK - Gatwick has now reopened its runway, but Ryanair is still operating its Gatwick schedule today from Stansted – with 11 flights in and out - and EasyJet will also operate four extra flights for Gatwick passengers from Stansted.

Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said police had not yet found the drone operator, with police saying it was possibly an environmental activist.

Speaking on the Today programme on Radio Four this morning, the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, explained that in such situations, “safety has to be paramount”. “There are new technologies now available, some purely in the military arena, some appearing in the commercial market, which are able to take action against drones,” he said. “There isn’t a single off the shelf commercial solution which does the job, so a variety of things have been done to create confidence.

“There is no single commercial solution that can make a difference. We are facing a new kind of threat. We are looking at the best ways of making protections permanent.”

Read more about the likelihood that drone usage could cause more air travel disruption in the future, and what can be done about it.

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