As trips home for Christmas were planned in recent weeks and months, many of us were no doubt imagining a homecoming much like that at the end of Love Actually - open arms, warm smiles and maybe a chicken fillet roll to assure us we really are in Ireland again.
However, with flights to and from London Gatwick Airport disrupted since 9pm last night, as drones were spotted flying close to the runway, the trip home will become much more difficult for many people.
Although expected to reopen at 10am this morning, the runway at London Gatwick Airport - the UK's second-largest airport - remains closed while police investigate what they now claim was a "deliberate" act of disruption.
Timelapse video shows travel chaos at London's Gatwick Airport, with passengers stranded days before Christmas.— CNN International (@cnni) December 20, 2018
The airport has been brought to a standstill after drones were seen flying over the airfield. Police described it as a "deliberate act." https://t.co/Rv881YhpJ2 pic.twitter.com/PVyIFmKE4a
What we know
All arriving and departing flights are still suspended.
Gatwick's Chief Operating Officer Chris Woodroofe said that "There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today, and the vast majority of those will see cancellations and disruption.
"Realistically if we do reopen today, what the airlines will seek to do is deal with the passengers who are on site and to prepare for an operation tomorrow morning where we repatriate passengers who are in the wrong place.
"It's realistically going to take several days to recover."
If' you're due to fly home soon, here's everything you need to know about the delays and how to avoid disruption.
Check your flight status
Posting last night, Gatwick advises that "anyone flying from Gatwick, or collecting someone from the airport, Wednesday 19th December or Thursday 20th December, check the status of their flight".
According to a statement released by the airport, arrangements are being made for passengers affected by these diversions to receive hotel accommodation. The airport also says it is transporting some passengers routed to other airports to Gatwick.
The quickest way to check the status of your flight is by calling the airline you're travelling with. Most airlines operate 24hr customer helplines, although expect slightly longer delays as travellers call in for information.
2/2 Please do not travel to the airport without checking the status of your flight with your airline first. We apologise to everyone affected, but the safety of all our passengers and staff is our no.1 priority.— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) December 20, 2018
Keep track of Ryanair's travel updates on its website, which are currently echoing Gatwick's advice to check the status of flights with airlines.
While the matter is investigated, a number of flights have been diverted to other airports, while aircrafts remain grounded at Gatwick. Among these diverted flights were ones from New York, Barbados and Las Vegas, which were due to land at Gatwick this morning, and were diverted to Shannon Airport.
.@Ryanair will operate an extra flight this evening from London Stansted Airport (@STN_Airport )to @CorkAirport & back out to London Stansted due to the closure of London Gatwick Airport (@Gatwick_Airport) Inbound flight due in at 21.05 with outbound flight departing at 21.35. pic.twitter.com/qT03NURLzC— Cork Airport (@CorkAirport) December 20, 2018
What to do if your flight is delayed
Law requires that airlines offer passengers a refund or re-route option following a delay of more than five hours, however, Ryanair makes this available after just a two-hour delay. If you need to change your booking to another Ryanair flight, you can do so at this link.
You can also choose to continue on your original flight, once a new departure time has been set. If you choose to stick with your flight, you may be entitled to:
- meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time;
- two telephone calls or e-mails;
- reasonable hotel accommodation where a stay of one or more nights becomes necessary;
- reasonable transport between the airport and place of accommodation (hotel or other).
Passengers are entitled to a full refund of the price paid for unused flights within seven days, and "If the disrupted flight is also their outbound sector, customers will be offered a full refund of the return sector, together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity (this is for passengers travelling on connecting flights)".
If you wish to refund your flight, you can apply for a refund at this link.
If flying with Aer Lingus, disrupted passengers can also either change their booking online or apply for a refund. Aer Lingus posted in Twitter that passengers affected by the disruptions "can be accommodated on the next available flight or cancel and apply for a refund".
#GatwickDrones | We are appealing for information to help us identify the operators of the #Gatwick #drones. If you know who's responsible or have any information please call 999 and quote ref 1350-19/12. Please RT pic.twitter.com/jkcakBohMr— Sussex Police (@sussex_police) December 20, 2018
Similarly, depending on the length of delay, Aer Lingus will offer refreshments and meals, free phone calls and emails and hotel accommodation if necessary. For full information on what you may be entitled, click here.
Getting from A to B
Train service Gatwick Express is also offering a number of solutions to travellers affected by the disruptions. Those travelling to Gatwick Airport will be able to travel to Luton Airport with their ticket at no extra cost. If you've bought a ticket with Gatwick Express but can no longer travel, they will refund the ticket with no admin fees, while if you hold a ticket for one network and need to change to another, they will do so without admin fees.
For the tech-savvy among us not content to wait for Twitter updates, you can monitor live flights via the Flight Tracker app, ensuring that if a loved one is currently in the air you can keep an eye on where they're heading.