‘Desperately trying to get back’

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Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gatwick’s runway has now reopened but police are yet to find the drone operator

Passengers waiting at Gatwick airport for flights abroad say they are frustrated and upset that Christmas plans have been ruined by rogue drones being flown over the runway.

About 140 flights have been cancelled, leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers unable to leave the country and others unable to get home.

‘Santa must not exist’

Image copyright O’Neill family
Image caption Lauran O’Neill says her daughter Emeli “cried all day” after their trip to Finland to see Santa was cancelled

Lauran O’Neill and her family were due to fly to Finland to see Santa, huskies, reindeer and the Northern Lights.

The nurse, from Harrow in London, and her husband Alex Tran, saved all year for the trip to Saariselka.

“We saved all year for this family trip. We will receive no compensation for flights and insurance is difficult as Finnair did not officially cancel the flight.

“I was not doing physical Christmas gifts as this was going to be the experience of a lifetime for my children.

“The whole family is devastated and my kids have been inconsolable. My five-year old daughter Emeli said Santa must not exist to have all these children crying.

“She came home and threw his invite letter in the bin.

“We have worked overtime for the last four months to give them [this trip] and to have that dissipate is so unfair for them. Emeli cried for the whole day when she found out.

“We are trying to cobble things together to make Christmas not so bad and our family and friends have been amazing.”

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‘I would rather be safe’

Image caption Linnea Stromberg and Sofia Andren, both from Sweden, befriended each other while waiting for their flights

Sofia Andren, 30, bedded down in a sleeping bag near the Christmas tree at the West Sussex airport’s South terminal after her flight to Gothenburg was cancelled.

“I’m grateful that they cancelled all the flights because I wouldn’t want to be on a flight when there is some sort of threat.

“Who knows what could be inside a drone? It can seem like nothing but it could also be super dangerous.

“I would rather be safe.”

Ms Andren eventually opted to fly to Copenhagen and get a train from there after being told the earliest flight to Gothenburg would be on Christmas Day.

She struck up a friendship with fellow Swede Linnea Stromberg, 22, from Stockholm, whose Gatwick-bound flight from New York ended up being diverted to Doncaster.

“We landed in Doncaster which was a tiny little airport and they seemed surprised there when such a big plane landed.

“But they dealt with it quite well and then they put us on a bus to Gatwick. I came here at 18:00 on Thursday.

“I waited in line until 22:00 then camped out by the Christmas tree.

“A year ago I was due to fly through Heathrow and they shut it due to the weather, so I probably won’t fly through London next Christmas.

“I understand that this seems like a big deal out of nothing but there was nothing really else the airport authorities could do.

“If I get on my flight, I will be grateful.”

‘Desperately trying to get back’

Image copyright Leana Grech
Image caption Leana Grech (left) and sister-in-law Janis Greenslade have been told there are no flights to bring them home until after Christmas

Leana Grech and sister-in-law Janis Greenslade were meant to return home from the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

But they’ve now been told the next available flight is 27 December.

Ms Grech, who has type 1 diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, Sheehan’s syndrome and sleep apnoea, said she will be missing Christmas with her family in East Sussex.

“I’m desperately trying to get back to see my son for Christmas,” she says.

“We were in the Dominican on my bucket list holiday as I don’t know if I can fly long haul again due to medical issues.”

She is trying to find out if she can source more medication while abroad, but added: “Thank god I brought enough insulin, growth hormone and life-saving steroids and emergency injections.”

‘It’s gutting’

Image caption Ryan Prendergast missed a job interview

Ryan Prendergast, 27, from Deal in Kent, had to cancel an interview for a job in Guernsey because of the disruption.

“I’ve had my day ruined and also lost around £70 but others have had their entire Christmas ruined.

“There was no way I was going to make it so I contacted the company. They seemed OK with it. It’s out of my control.

“It’s gutting. I was really looking forward to the opportunity and here I am now waiting to get the train home.”

Read more: www.bbc.co.uk

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