Gatwick’s runway has reopened six hours after it was forced to suspend flights when two drones were spotted over the airport.
Two drones were spotted flying over the airfield at about 9.03pm this evening, with officials saying there had been further sightings since. All flights in and out were halted.
Sussex Police launched an investigation and Gatwick promised to reopen the runway following “suitable reassurance”.
A police helicopter circulated the airport looking for the drones.
An airport spokesman said: “Gatwick’s runway is now open after flights were earlier suspended following reports of two drone flying over the airfield.
Flights were suspended between 9.03pm on 19 December and 3.01am on 20 December. Our focus is now working, with the airport community, to catch up the flight schedule.
“We advise everyone flying from Gatwick, or collecting someone from the airport, Thursday 20 December, to check the status of their flight.”
Gatwick added that airlines had been working to provide delayed and diverted passenger with hotel accommodation or transport.
It added an apology, saying passenger and staff safety was its “foremost priority”.
Hundreds of travellers were diverted or delayed, with dozens tweeting their frustration at being left on the tarmac.
One passenger confirmed she was finally being let off the plane about six and a half hours after landing.
While some were diverted to other London airports, others have reported being sent as far away as Paris, Bordeaux and Amsterdam.
According to Flight Radar, more than two dozen flights bound for Gatwick had been diverted by 11pm.
One tweeter said: “Dear @British_Airways thanks for diverting our plan to Stansted and now Heathrow (even though we were meant to land at Gatwick) and now you’re not even letting us off the plane.”
The airline responded: “Sorry about that, Elly. Gatwick have stopped all arrivals and departures due to a drone, we’ve been told. Something that’s not within our control. We hope the crew keeps you updated.”
Oana Damien said her flight has been diverted to Heathrow from Gatwick, but no one on her plane was able to disembark as there were no customs and ground handling operations in place.
Joe Bond’s flight from Belfast was diverted to Birmingham. He joked on Twitter: “From the sound of the stewards we might be staying here forever.”
He later added: “Update. Got a free can of Coke and Pringles. Which has made the delay better.”