• Drones

Gatwick Airport Disruption: What are your rights?

On Wednesday 19th December – Thursday 20th December, 2018 all flights to and from Gatwick were suspended to allow the police to investigate the sighting of two drones near the runway. Drones were sighted Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. It is believed that it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt flights but not thought to be terrorist related. The disruption has led to 657 flights being cancelled and around 10,000 passengers faced disruption to their travel plans.

Gatwick Airport said:

“We are extremely disappointed that passengers are being affected by this especially at such an important time of year. We are prioritising the welfare of those at the airport by deploying staff into our terminals to look after people as best we can.  We are working with our airlines to get information to passengers and our airlines are working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport passengers landing at other airports to Gatwick by other means. We apologise to any affected passengers for this inconvenience but the safety of our passengers and all staff is our number one priority”.

We all are aware that large birds can damage aircraft especially if ingested into the engine but drones represent a greater risk. Drones vary in size and have combustible electrical components which may puncture a fuel tank. Laws are currently in force banning drones from flying above 400 feet and within 0.60 miles of airport boundaries. If a drone pilot breaches these regulations, they can face unlimited fines and possible prison of up to five years. Currently police are unable to shoot down the drone because of safety issues with stray bullets and where an out of control drone may fall.

There is no record of a drone hitting a commercial airliner but a Virgin Atlantic jet, (Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner capacity of 264 passengers), came within ten feet of a drone when flying over Clapham Common on its approach to Heathrow. There were 92 instances of drones straying into airspace during 2018.

In case you’re wondering, ‘what damage could a drone really do to a plane?’, this video, which shows tests performed at the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Impact Physics Lab, shows the havoc that even small drones can wreak on aircraft. Guardian UK Blog

Are you entitled to compensation?

For delays over two hours passengers are entitled to food and drink appropriate to the time of day. This is often provided by a voucher. For overnight delays the airline must provide hotel accommodation. If airline staff cannot assist in booking a hotel due to the large numbers then you may book your own hotel and claim back the expense. Remember to book a reasonably priced room and retain receipts. The Airline will also pay taxi fares to and from the airport.

If the delay is over 5 hours then passengers have the same rights as if the flight was cancelled. This will include refund or an alternative flight. Compensation under EU261/2004 in this case is not due as an airport closure is beyond the control of an airline and as such is deemed an extraordinary circumstance. As such the Gatwick Drone Delays DO NOT qualify for extra compensation.

Flight Delay Pay is a team of travel and legal professionals with vast knowledge and many years of experience working with European Passenger Rights. We work with airlines and passengers all over the world and take on claims up to 6 years back. If you think your claim fits within the eu261 regulations then claim with us now! Let us take the strain and handle your claim. No win, no fee!

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