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BREAKING NEWS

Britain's Gatwick Airport shut down after drones spotted over airfield

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Image: London Gatwick Airport
An information board announces flight disruption at London Gatwick Airport, south of London on Dec. 20, 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield. -
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Glyn Kirk
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Flights into and out of Britain's Gatwick Airport were halted for hours after drones were spotted for two days in a row over the airfield, and authorities said more than 100,000 travelers would be affected Thursday."There are 110,000 passengers due to fly today and the vast majority will see cancellation and disruption," said Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick's chief operating officer. More than 750 flights were scheduled to fly into and out of Gatwick Thursday, The Associated Press reported.Woodroofe didn't expect the airport to operate smoothly for some time, as the cancelations would be compounded by the rush of the holiday weekend."Realistically it's going to take several days to recover," Woodroofe said.Gatwick is Britain's second busiest airport with 46 million people passing throughin the past 12 months, compared with Heathrow's 80 million, according to the airlines.The airport first closed its runway Wednesday night after two drones were spotted over the airfield. It reopened for less than 45 minutes before closing again at 3:45 a.m. GMT Thursday (10:45 p.m. ET Wednesday) after more drones were spotted, according to airport officials.

An information board announces flight disruption at London Gatwick Airport, south of London on Dec. 20, 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield.
An information board announces flight disruption at London Gatwick Airport, south of London on Dec. 20, 2018 after all flights were grounded due to drones flying over the airfield.Glyn Kirk

The latest drone was seen over the airport at 8:45 a.m. GMT (3:45 a.m. ET), according to Sussex Police.As authorities searched for the operators of the drones, police said there was no indication the incident was terror-related but rather a "deliberate act to disrupt the airport.""I'm talking about an act that is deliberately seeking to affect the tens of thousands of passengers that wanted to fly from Gatwick today, this close to the Christmas period," Woodroofe said. "It's them who have paid the price of this deliberate act."He said there were still thousands of people in the airport's terminals. While those travelers waited, some of those scheduled to land at Gatwick were diverted to London's Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, and airports in other cities.Luke McComiskie, who landed in Manchester, which is more than 160 miles away from London, told the AP that the situation "was just chaos, and they had only two coaches (buses) and taxis charging people 600 pounds ($760) to get to Gatwick."EasyJet, a major airline operating out of Gatwick said they were providing ground transportation, hotel accommodations or reimbursements for people who were diverted away from Gatwick. They urged people with canceled Thursday flights not to come to the airport.As sales of drones have risen, aviation experts have warned that a drone colliding with a plane could have disastrous results.Flying a drone near an airport could result in up to five years in prison in the U.K.