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Gatwick airport ‘reopened for limited number of flights’

Gatwick, around 50km south of the British capital, is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single-runway air hub.

Passengers wait at the North Terminal at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, on 20 December 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - London’s Gatwick Airport, paralysed for more than two days after dozens of drone sightings, said it planned to reopen on Friday for a “limited number” for flights.

“Gatwick’s runway is currently available, and a limited number of aircraft are scheduled for departure and arrival,” the airport said on Twitter. It advised passengers to check the status of their flights before travelling to the airport.

But police have still yet to find the operator of the drones and the airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the runway would close again if there was another sighting.

There have been more than 50 sightings of the device since 9pm (21:00GMT) on Wednesday and shooting down the drone is now an option, Jason Tingley of Sussex Police earlier told reporters.

“We will do what we can to take that drone out of the sky and remove that disruption, so we can get Gatwick back to normal,” he said.

“One of the options is to use firearms officers if that presents itself - they have been out on the ground today (Thursday) and that’s a consideration and a tactical option that’s open to us.”

British Airways confirmed on Twitter that it had received confirmation “advising the airport is back open and the majority of flights operating as scheduled”.

Around 120,000 passengers have had their flights cancelled during the chaos.

‘IT’S CHILDISH’

Gatwick, around 50 kilometres south of the British capital, is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single-runway air hub.

Inbound flights were diverted to other airports, including Paris, while passengers waiting to take off faced gruelling delays as airlines cut services.

Easyjet, Gatwick’s biggest operator, said it had cancelled all its flights in and out of the hub on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said overnight restrictions would be lifted at some airports to help ease the situation.

Some 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night, and a further 110,000 who had been due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights Thursday.

Gatwick said it anticipated disruption to continue into Friday.

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.”