Passengers stranded by the chaos at Gatwick Airport today told of families running out of food and trying to sleep in ‘freezing’ terminals and crowded planes.
As people grow increasingly frustrated inside UK terminals, passengers are also scattered across Europe.
One flyer hoping to reach London had to land in Paris – where he was told that he’d be diverted back to the UK on a bus.
Also diverted to the French capital was Dr Steph Walker, after she boarded a Gatwick-bound flight from Boston.
And Corinne Roberts tweeted that her parents-in-law were stuck in a departure lounge at Brussels as their visa don’t allow them to enter the country beyond that point.
Passengers at airports across Europe were growing increasingly frustrated today as the drone at Gatwick (pictured) continued to evade police
Jon Carles emailed MailOnline to say he was stuck in the Canary islands today as the mayhem continued to unfold following the first sighting of the drone at 9.03pm last night.
‘Me and my partner are currently stuck in Lanzarote,’ he said. ‘Supposed to be to flying back to Gatwick today with easyJet but no one knows what’s going on here and what’s going to happen.
‘Managed to get through to easy jet after 45 minutes on hold and they told us to wait until 6pm and see what happens. And if gets cancelled we can’t get a flight back with them for 48hours.’
This shows where passengers heading for Gatwick have been diverted since 9pm last night
This evening Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told Sky News that the government is doing everything it can to get people home as soon as possible.
‘We’re doing everything we can to make arrangements with other airports to get passengers incoming into the UK, but also to give passengers a chance to get out of the UK as quickly as possible.
‘One of the things we’re going to be doing is temporarily lifting the night-flight restrictions at other airports so more planes can get into and out of the country.
‘Apologies for the residents affected, but it’s right and proper that we try and sort people’s Christmases out.
‘It’s likely to be other London airports but it will only be tonight. We will review the situation again tomorrow but we’re looking to get people away.’
Joseph Ouechen, a photographer from Morocco, was due to fly into Gatwick on Wednesday night but had his flight diverted to Paris.
After arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport at midnight, passengers with visas for the Schengen area were taken to a hotel but those without – ‘about 20 per cent’ – were left in the airport to fend for themselves, he said.
‘There were families with babies who couldn’t get to their suitcases for their milk and stuff,’ he said.
‘We were asking just for a favour if (airport staff) could help but they said they couldn’t do anything.’
Firefighters eventually crossed the border through passport control with blankets and water at 3.30am, he said.
Police are pictured at Gatwick’s police station roof today as they use equipment in the ongoing task to stop the drone unleashing chaos in Sussex
‘To be honest, I’m so tired and when the guys from the fire (service) came with the bottles and blankets I was feeling like a war, like (I was) a refugee, but I’m just flying to the UK.
Timeline: How dangerous drone pilot managed to shut down Gatwick
Police are hunting for the expert drone pilot who has grounded hundreds of planes coming in and out of Gatwick by flying a drone at least ten time
Here is how the chaos has unfolded:
9pm, December 19: Drone is first spotted by airport staff hovering near the runway causing flights to be grounded or diverted.
9.15pm: It appears again leading Gatwick bosses to believe it is a deliberate act.
9.30pm – midnight: The drone is seen at least five more times in that period
3.01am, December 20: Airport re-opens its runway after the all clear is given
3.45am: Drone is seen again and flights are again grounded
7am: Small unmanned aircraft appears again
9am: Last sighting of the drone as police start hunting perimeter of the airport
Midday: Police are unable find the drone pilot despite it appearing again at lunchtime with Gatwick saying all flights are grounded until at least 4pm
2pm: Airport admits it has ‘no idea’ when it will re-open as police struggle to find the pilot
3pm: The drone is spotted again as it buzzes across Gatwick’s runway. It was just minutes after airport bosses announced they had hoped to re-open at 4pm.
4pm: Drone spotted flying over the runway yet again.
5pm: Ministry of Defence confirms that it is using specialist equipment to seek out the drone
‘It’s surreal. I was flying to the UK and now there are firemen bringing me water and blankets.’
Those who didn’t find themselves stuck abroad had to land more than 100 miles from their destination once they made their way back to the UK.
Chris Lister, from Somerset, who owns an online business, was travelling back from Kiev with his wife Freya.
He was due to land at Gatwick at 9.45pm yesterday 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 milk,’ he said.
After starting his journey in Bangkok on Tuesday he was finally let off the plane at 6am, he said.
Gareth Jones praised easyJet’s response to the chaos, telling MailOnline: ‘My son was due to fly home from Salzburg this morning on an Easyjet flight that was obviously cancelled.
‘They have transferred him to the same flight tomorrow and put him up in a four-star hotel, with meals, overnight.
‘Fortunately, he has no work commitments or time issues so it’s not a bad deal at the end of the day. easyJet get some bad press but this is good service on their part.’
Sally Gardiner, who is in Nice, France, said: ‘The problems caused by this malicious person extend way beyond Gatwick. My son was to join me in Nice today for a break before Christmas.
‘I don’t see him very often so my disappointment is immense.
‘I have also paid in advance for his accommodation.
‘I have French friends who were due to fly from Nice to Gatwick tomorrow for connecting flight to USA to spend Christmas with families there. The knock on effect is massive.’
Gatwick Airport travel chaos: What are consumers entitled to?
Tens of thousands of passengers have been suffering travel chaos after drones were flown around Gatwick Airport. Here is a look at what help customers could be entitled to:
– Will those affected be entitled to compensation?
Consumer rights experts say that despite the frustration for those who have suffered disruption, these are ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: ‘This situation will understandably be frustrating for both the airlines and the tens of thousands of passengers travelling to and from Gatwick ahead of Christmas.
‘Whilst these extraordinary circumstances unfortunately mean you are not entitled to compensation, you may still be entitled to meals, refreshments, hotel accommodation or transfers.
‘You don’t have to cancel your tickets though, as depending on the length of the delay, your airline should be providing you with alternative travel options or accommodation.’
– What are extraordinary circumstances?
Compensation for delayed or cancelled flights hinges on the reason for the delay and the length of notice passengers are given. Which? says that in cases where the airline can prove the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances, no compensation is payable.
Extraordinary circumstances are situations out of the airline’s control, for example, a security risk, political instability or severe weather that makes flying dangerous.
– What support can people get?
Which? says that if someone’s flight is delayed for at least two hours, depending on the length of the flight, their airline may give them two free phone calls, faxes or emails; free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay; and free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.
If a flight was delayed for more than five hours they may be able to choose between being rerouted on a different flight or getting a refund – just as if the flight had been cancelled.
– How can insurers help?
Martyn James, spokesman for consumer help website Resolver.co.uk, suggests that as well as speaking to the airline, ‘you can also speak to your travel insurer to see if you have any options in your insurance policy’.
Giving general advice, the Association of British Insurers said people should speak to their airline or travel company first.
A spokesman said: ‘For additional travel disruption costs, such as missed hotel bookings or already paid for activities that you can no longer make, you should speak to your travel insurer as these may be covered under the terms of your travel insurance, depending on the type of cover you have bought.’
Insurer Axa says if customers need to change the dates of their trip they should make contact to update their policy.