Gatwick passengers have been forced to wait up to four hours for their luggage after the airport continues to recover from an ‘air traffic control breakdown’.
Many passengers complained they had to sleep at the airport overnight after a ‘gold emergency’ was declared at around 6pm yesterday evening, bringing Britain’s second-busiest airport to a grinding halt for two hours.
Disgruntled passengers described the situation as an ‘utter shambles’ with reports of flights heading to Gatwick also suspended or diverted.
The airport has now advised customers to check flight status with respective airlines before they travel.
According to FlightStats six flights were cancelled which were set to take off between 6am and midday today and 39 were delayed. Yesterday 26 flights were diverted, while 28 were cancelled.
Many passengers remained in the airport overnight with others claiming they had been waiting hours for baggage carousels to load.
This morning one customer tweeted that she had been waiting four hours for her baggage and that there had been no staff members on hand to help.
One user said: ‘@ThomasCookCares @Gatwick_Airport absolutely appalling flight from Antalya no customer service from turkey and stuck in baggage reclaim at Gatwick with lots screaming kids. No communication whatsoever.’
This is while another added: ‘These two days must be the worst days of my life… Now I’m going to Vienna and my aunty isn’t even there so I have to stay in a hotel all by myself and wait til Friday until my parents come to collect me…. Why is this s*** happening to me? THANKS AGAIN GATWICK.’
Passengers may not be able to claim compensation as delays were caused by air traffic control issues, however delays or cancellations may be covered by travel insurance, depending on the type of policy taken out.
Passengers reported growing queues at Gatwick (pictured) after flights were suspended at around 6pm yesterday evening
Bart Scheffer, wrote on Twitter last night: ‘At least the pilot of Easy Jet EZY8879 takes the time to inform passengers about the problems with the flight control system @Gatwick_Airport. Compliments.’
Departure boards at the airport last night warned of delays of around two to three hours, with dozens of passengers currently stranded inside planes
One Twitter user said they had slept at Gatwick Airport all night and that they had been there since 5PM yesterday
Some customers fumed this morning that people had to sleep on hard floors of empty baggage belts following delays
Earlier today a three vehicle crash on the M23 also meant many travelling towards Gatwick were delayed.
Highways England warned that journeys would take considerably more time from Junction 10 to Junction 9 today – meaning more people could be delayed for their flights.
The carriageway between Junction 8 and Junction 10 has been closed since around 5am this morning.
Last night departure boards inside the airport showed all upcoming flights delayed, some by up to three or four hours – with reports of passengers also stuck on the runway.
Several flights were diverted to other airports around the country including Bristol. It comes at the beginning of the summer rush, with many independent schools already broken up for the holiday.
During the suspension, the airport apologised to passengers and said it was working with Air Navigation Solutions, its air traffic control provider, to fix the problem.
ANS, a private company, has controlled plane movements at the airport since 2016.
Passengers fumed at airlines such as TUI this morning with one saying: ‘Who is actually in charge on unloading baggage? @TUIUK saying it’t nothing to do with them and @GatwickAirport saying it’s down to the airline. As per usual it’s the paying customer that’s suffering.’
Others said they had been offered no refreshments while they waited and said they had received ‘no communication whatsoever’.
Many people took to Twitter this morning to complain about their experience at the airport
The issue was reported at around 6pm yesterday evening, bringing Britain’s second-busiest airport (pictured) to a grinding halt
One woman said she was forced to book onto another flight as hers had been delayed until the next day
Flights have now resumed, but knock-on delays are expected today.
However, some customers were forced to book alternative flights to their destinations, and one passenger said her flight with Fly Norwegian today had been delayed until 0.05am tomorrow.
The EU 261 Air Passenger Rights Regulation
Many facing delays at Gatwick Airport will be looking to claim compensation, the EC Regulation 261/2004 was put in place to help passengers do just that.
However, the regulation helps those affected by airlines who have had delays to their routes and many will not be able to gain compensation as the the fault at Gatwick was not a fault of the airlines but of the airport itself.
Who does it apply to?
The regulation applies to those travelling with a valid ticket and booking confirmation.
Passengers have to have started their trip at an EU airport or land in an EU airport.
It does not matter what sort of ticket you have, whether it’s first class or economy.
When it doesn’t apply
It doesn’t apply to passengers who checked in late or passengers who are travelling on a discounted fare that would not be directly available to the general public
Many have been encouraged to look to their travel insurance policies, which will often pay out if costs are incurred due to delays. However, payment will usually not be made if they are delayed less that 12 hours.
‘I’ve had to book new flights today on a different airline – much more expensive than original flights with you. Am I entitled to anything or just the refunded Norwegian Air flight?’
At around 10pm last night the airport said: ‘Flights have resumed following the earlier issue with our control tower.
‘Apologies if you have been affected this evening. We plan to operate a full schedule on Thursday, however we would advise you to check your flight with your airline before setting out for the airport.’
Passengers waiting to travel to Gatwick are still facing lengthy delays. One told MailOnline last night: ‘Me and a group of work colleagues are currently stuck in Dublin airport.
‘We sat on the plane for an hour or so, got sent back to the terminal for another hour and then got told to get back on board.
‘We’ve now just been told we can expect to take off in the next two hours. Meanwhile food isn’t being served and a passenger has fainted.’
Passengers also earlier took to Twitter to complain of the delays, with some angry about the amount of information issued.
James Conway, who was due to be arriving in Glasgow at 7pm, shared a picture of the runway at Gatwick airport.
He wrote: ‘Due to arrive in Glasgow at approx 7pm but the view from my window seems strangely familiar.’
Another passenger, Doug Neuhofer, told MailOnline: ‘All check in at the terminal has been shut and the terminal is full we are now waiting undetermined delay.’
While another said: ‘The one time I get a middle seat at Gatwick Airport, a tower gets the hiccups and I’m stuck on the tarmac with no refreshments available.’
Shilpa Ganatra, a travel journalist, who was supposed to be flying to Bilbao for a festival, learnt her flight was cancelled at the airport.
Disgruntled passengers took to Twitter last night and this morning to complain of the delays. One wrote: ‘The one time I get a middle seat at Gatwick Airport, a tower gets the hiccups and I’m stuck on the tarmac with no refreshments available
Disgruntled passengers have been taking to Twitter to complain about the delays (above and below)
She said: ‘Vueling, who I was flying with, rebooked me on a Friday, indirect, overnight flight, which is obviously pointless.
‘I’m just trying to find out how to reject that – I’ve had to rebook myself on a 6.30am Ryanair flight from Southend tomorrow, at a cost of £280 plus £60 in hotel and yet-to-find-out train fare.
‘I’m hoping either my travel insurance or the airline will cover it, but it’s the stress of not being 100 per cent sure and the hassle that’s the most infuriating thing, apart from the lost holiday time.’
She said other travellers ‘had it worse’ with people ‘waiting hours to find out what was going on’.
Jennifer Jones, 31, from Hertfordshire, said her Norwegian Airlines flight which left Stockholm at 5.50pm was diverted to Birmingham Airport.
Passengers were sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half while their plane waited in a queue to refuel and fly to Gatwick.
‘Everyone is pretty relaxed but bored I think,’ she said.
‘A few people have asked for food but they said they can’t do a food service right now.’
Bart Scheffer, however, praised how the situation had been handled.
He said: ‘At least the pilot of Easy Jet EZY8879 takes the time to inform passengers about the problems with the flight control system Gatwick Airport. Compliments.’
When the issue was first announced, Gatwick Airport announced: ‘Due to an air traffic control systems issue in Gatwick’s control tower, flights are currently suspended.
‘We are working with ANS, our air traffic control provider, to rectify this issue as quickly as possible.’
Air Navigation Solutions, a private company, has controlled plane movements at the airport since 2016. It apologised for the disruption caused at the airport
One irate passenger tweeted British Airways and Gatwick Airport to ask why her flight appeared to have been delayed into the early hours of the morning yesterday
Air Navigation Solutions, a private company, has controlled plane movements at the airport since 2016.
It tweeted after services were resumed at Gatwick: ‘A technical issue with one of the air traffic control systems at Gatwick has been resolved, and flight operations have now resumed. We apologise for the inconvenience this situation has caused.’
In an update to travellers, Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern franchises said: ‘Gatwick Airport passengers that have had their flight cancelled are able to use today’s tickets to make their way home via any route on our network, and will be able to use today’s ticket to travel on our network tomorrow as well.’
Aashna Shroff, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, warned passengers may not receive compensation if their journeys were affected by the suspension.
She said: ‘The delays at Gatwick are due to a problem with the air traffic control system and no fault of the airlines, so you’re unlikely to be compensated by your airline if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
‘But it’s still worth checking with your airline what its policy is on delays and cancellations.
‘It’s likely that delays caused by extraordinary circumstances, will not be covered by your airline.
‘Extraordinary circumstances are typically events which are outside of the airline’s control, such as extreme weather and bird strikes.
‘But delays or cancelled flights might be covered by your travel insurance, so check your policy documents.’
Gatwick made headlines last December after closing its runway repeatedly due to reports of mystery drone sightings nearby, impacting nearly 140,000 passengers.
The chaos continued despite a huge police operation and the army was eventually called to bring the incident under control.
Footage of the drone at the time showed the craft hovering near the control tower, where workers were unable to film it because of a ban on mobile phones.
Gatwick staff on the ground also claimed that it appeared to be taunting them by flying low overhead and flashing its light in their direction.
It is thought the drone hid behind buildings and structures beyond the reach of military-grade counter-drone equipment brought it to end the chaos.
Police said in February that the drone ‘attacks’ could have been an ‘inside job’ by a current or former Gatwick employee who would have known about security blind spots.
Military anti-drone equipment, which can detect the flying machines and disable them by jamming radio signals, remained at the airport until March.
Gatwick and Heathrow are investing millions in their own systems to prevent future flight disruption.