In Brief

Gatwick drone sightings ‘cost airport and airlines £50m’

EasyJet alone lost £15m as a result of the 33-hour grounding

The drone chaos at Gatwick last month cost the airport and airlines £50m, according to newly released estimates.

The Independent used easyJet’s own analysis of its losses, released in its latest trading update, to calculate the wider impact of the disruption, which saw more than 1,000 flights grounded over 33 hours in the busy pre-Christmas week.

As Gatwick’s biggest operator, the budget airline was especially hard hit. More than 400 easyJet flights were cancelled during the disruption, affecting 82,000 customers.

Customer welfare costs, such as providing accommodation and alternative transport for delayed passengers, cost the airline around £10m, while another £5m was lost through cancelled bookings.

Investment expert Emma-Lou Montgomery told The Guardian that this was the first time easyJet had cited a drone sighting in a trading update, which “shows just how much of a financial headache the pre-Christmas chaos caused for the airlines at Gatwick”.

“Assuming that easyJet’s financial hit from the incident is mirrored proportionately by other airlines, the total damage to carriers is between £35m and £40m,” says The Independent.

The airport itself lost a minimum £15m worth of revenue, bringing the total estimated cost of the incident to at least £50m, and possibly in excess of £60m.

EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said the company remained on track to hit predicted profits despite the drone chaos, but said they were “disappointed” at how long long the incident took to resolve.

“You can't always protect yourself from that, but it's a wake-up call and airports will be better prepared going forward,” he said.

The identity of the culprit or culprits behind the drone disruption remains unknown. A local couple were questioned by police in the days following the sightings, but later released without charge.

Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported that Sussex Police was still investigating around 60 potential suspects, but “the majority have yet to be interrogated or eliminated from the inquiry”. No arrests have been made.

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