A couple due to be married tomorrow and their wedding party face further uncertainty at Gatwick Airport following severe flight disruption caused by drones.
Bride-to-be Tayo Abraham and her partner Ope Odedine were due to fly to Marrakesh in Morocco on Wednesday alongside nine family and friends.
The group boarded the Air Arabia flight, due to depart at 8.40pm, and were kept onboard ‘in the dark’ until 2am.
Bride-to-be Tayo Abraham (centre) surrounded yesterday by her friends in the wedding party, at Gatwick Airport who were due to fly to Marrakesh in Morocco but face more uncertainty
This shows where passengers heading for Gatwick have been diverted since 9pm Wednesday
Gatwick’s runway only reopened at 6am today having been shut since Wednesday night due to devices flying over it, with chief executive officer Stewart Wingate saying they were designed to ‘close the airport and bring maximum disruption’.
Thousands of families faced heartache as the chaos at Gatwick left holiday plans in ruins. Children wept as they learned their flights were cancelled, and plans for family reunions were abandoned, just days before Christmas.
Some were left in limbo, waiting for hours at the packed airport to learn if their flights would finally go ahead. Tempers frayed as stranded passengers crammed into every available space, and berated airline staff for the lack of any updates.
Miss Abraham, 31, a contractor from Glasgow, said: ‘It’s been a year that we’ve been planning this, we can’t start rearranging the wedding.
Passengers wait to check in at Gatwick Airport this morning as the disruption continues
Passengers stranded last night at Gatwick Airport, which only reopened at 6am this morning
‘It’s sad because it’s Christmas time and people are trying to get to loved ones. Everything has been disrupted but aside from the cost it’s the emotional side, the trauma.’
Family trip to Lapland ruined by a drone
Natalie Carsey had hoped to take Immy and Patrick to Lapland
Finance director Natalie Carsey, 43, had saved up all year to take her children Patrick, nine, and Immy, seven, on a day trip to see Father Christmas in Lapland.
Mrs Carsey, from Hertfordshire, said: ‘We had saved all year, and waited all year, for this. My daughter Immy has been crying since finding out.
‘I’ve been ringing around desperately trying to find another holiday but they’re all booked. The travel agents are going to try to give us a full refund but it’s very disappointing.
‘We’re heartbroken. Seeing Immy cry has made me tearful.’ Angry father Rob Threadgold was at the airport to take his two young sons on another ‘Santa flight’ to Lapland.
He tweeted: ‘To whoever is doing this at Gatwick. I wish you could see my kids right now and the devastation you have caused.’
The group, including a four-year-old and a one-year-old, booked a hotel for the night after passengers were told to return to the airport at 11am yesterday.
Following another day of disruption, Ms Abraham and her fiance then booked an alternative flight from Manchester Airport for this morning at a cost of over £1,000.
She said they may have to ‘trim’ back on guests as the additional cost of rebooking flights was too high for everyone to pay.
She said: ‘Most of the guests are there already. We have to be there. I just want to get there and get this over with, but it will be disappointing for everyone that isn’t able to travel.’
The couple are due to fly back on December 26, with other members due to return to the UK on Sunday.
Ms Abraham’s uncle Baba Sanwo, from San Diego, flew into Heathrow from the US on Tuesday in anticipation of Wednesday’s flight, hoping to travel as a family.
The 63-year-old said he had been sat on the floor of Gatwick for over five hours.
He said: ‘I’m uncomfortable, cold and hungry. What if there are people on medication, what if there was a wedding today?’
Stella Phillips, the bride-to-be’s aunt, from London, said: ‘There’s no information. Gatwick have been fine but they don’t have any information for you, they say go to your airline.’
Andy Ravenscroft with children Anders and Erica as the chaos at Gatwick Airport continues
The 41-year-old said the group paid £300 for the hotel on Wednesday and they are unsure whether they can recover the costs.
Mother-of-two’s tears as Christmas in her homeland is cancelled
Mother Liliana Cabrera broke down as she learned her flight to take her sons to visit their grandparents in Colombia had been cancelled.
The 41-year-old had planned a three-week trip to Bogota with Isaac, six, and Leonardo, five, and had five suitcases filled with Christmas presents for her family.
The museum worker from Greenwich, South East London, arrived at the airport at 3.45am only to find her 10am flight was cancelled.
Liliana Cabrera with sons Isaac, six, and Leonardo, five, at Gatwick Airport
Another flight was announced for 2pm but when the family went to the gate, as directed, they were simply given their luggage back.
‘I don’t want to cry but we just wanted to see my family at Christmas,’ she said.
‘Now we’re waiting to see what we have to do next. We’re hoping somehow we can still get to Colombia. [Staff have] said, ‘You need to go home.’ Our cases are full of Christmas presents for my parents and brother and sister.’
Mrs Phillips said: ‘This kind of thing can be avoided. You’re saying you’re trying to prevent loss of life, but you know it’s a drone.
‘Couldn’t they have brought the military in ages ago? It might take another 24 hours for them to do what they want to do.’
Meanwhile Gisele Fenech, 43, who was travelling to Malta, was among those stranded at the airport yesterday.
‘We’re meeting family and it’s my daughter’s birthday today so it’s gone all wrong. We’ve been looking forward to this for so long,’ she told AFP. ‘Everyone’s trying to get home for Christmas.’
Musab Rashid, 22, who was going to Copenhagen, said: ‘It’s wrong, it’s childish of them to do this, because it’s affected more than 100,000 people.’
Meanwhile Andrew and Siv Ravenscroft were on their way to a Christmas family reunion in Norway with children Anders, 12, and nine-year-old Erica.
The family had flown from their home in Jersey to Gatwick on Wednesday night to catch a flight to Oslo, but their first flight was diverted to Stansted, where their plane was kept on the tarmac for three hours.
They paid £180 for a taxi from Stansted to Gatwick, only to find that their next flight from Gatwick to Oslo had been cancelled.
In desperation, the family spent another £1,000 for four tickets from Heathrow on a flight today. Mr Ravenscroft, 50, said: ‘When we landed at Stansted we were stuck on the tarmac for three hours.
‘People were shouting, saying they just wanted to get off.
‘We were told there would be three coaches to get us to Gatwick, but there was nothing. We had to pay £180 for a taxi.
Robert and Susan Pocknell only moved 20ft despite queuing for almost four hours at Gatwick
‘We finally arrived at 3.30am for a 9am flight. They let us check our bags in so we thought we were travelling, then they called us to the gate and gave them back.
Off to Birmingham after Toronto flight cancelled
Mother Pam Noakes was waiting to take her young children to spend Christmas with their grandparents in Canada.
The mother-of-two was due to fly from Gatwick to Toronto, but was told at the airport that the flight would be leaving from Birmingham instead.
Pam Noakes and her children, aged five and two, pictured stranded at Gatwick Airport
Mrs Noakes, whose children are aged five and two, said: ‘They’re apparently putting on a coach to Birmingham.
‘It should be leaving soon, because everyone has been told to get their suitcases checked in. It would have been my children’s first Christmas in Canada with their grandparents. We’ll have to see if we actually get there.’
‘We’ve now paid £1,000 for four one-way tickets to Norway for Friday morning from Heathrow. We’re worried there will be a knock-on effect at other airports and we might not even make it.’
He added: ‘The drone is really worrying. Anything could have been dropped on the runway. It’s no wonder they take it so seriously.’
Pensioners Robert and Susan Pocknell were due to fly to Spain for Christmas.
They arrived at Gatwick shortly before 4am but were greeted by scenes of chaos, and had to join a massive queue to try to change flights.
After queuing for almost four hours, the couple from Hillingdon, West London, had moved barely 20ft in the queue, which stretched around the south terminal.
Mr Pocknell, 78, said: ‘Everybody was arguing. There was no organisation whatsoever. No one even showed us where this queue was, we had to find it ourselves.
‘We’re going on a package holiday so I’m worried if we don’t get to Malaga before Sunday we’ll lose our room and won’t have a hotel to stay in. I just want a refund and a new flight.
‘We haven’t even been offered any vouchers to get a bottle of water. It’s a shambles.’
His 70-year-old wife added: ‘We’re British, so we just have to smile and get on with it. I’m more peeved that I might have to go home and cook.’
Timeline: How the drone chaos at Gatwick Airport has unfolded
After a drone caused chaos for tens of thousands of passengers at Gatwick Airport, we look at how the events have unfolded so far:
9pm – Gatwick suspends flights in and out of the airport after reports of two drones flying near the airfield. Some planes are diverted to other airports.
3am – The runway reopens
3.45am – The runway shuts again after a further report of drone sightings
10.20am – Sussex Police reveal the flying of drones close to the airfield is ‘a deliberate act to disrupt the airport’, but ‘there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror related’
12.20pm – The airport’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe says around 110,000 passengers are due to travel on Thursday, most of whom will see cancellations and disruptions.
3.50pm – The Ministry of Defence says police are in ‘ongoing discussions’ with the Army about assisting with the operation to find the drones.
5.50pm – Gatwick’s chief executive officer Stewart Wingate says the drone flights are ‘highly targeted’ and have ‘been designed to close the airport and bring maximum disruption in the run up to Christmas’.
9.30pm – Mr Woodroofe says the airport will remain closed for the rest of the evening after drone activity was reported ‘within the last hour’.
9.30pm – Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley, of Sussex Police, says there have been more than 50 sightings of the device in the past 24 hours. He reveals that shooting down the drone is a ‘tactical option’ being considered by police.
5.58am – According to flight tracking website Flightradar24, a plane from East Midlands Airport lands at Gatwick.
6.30am – Gatwick Airport says the runway is ‘currently available’ and that a ‘limited number’ of planes are scheduled for departure and arrival.