Gatwick’s December Drone Closure Cost Airlines $64.5 million

The drone activity that disrupted pre-Christmas flights in and out of London’s Gatwick airport for 33 hours cost airlines an estimated £50 million ($64.5 million).

That number was extrapolated by The Independent from EasyJet’s announcement that it lost £15 million ($19.3 million) in revenue and customer welfare costs during the shutdown. The budget airline added that the drone incident and subsequent disruption — including the cancellation of over 1,000 flights — was a “wake-up call” for airports. Gatwick is now planning a drill to try to improve its response to any similar threats that may occur in the future.

Several weeks after Gatwick’s closure, a drone was sighted at London’s Heathrow airport, causing flights to stop for an hour. One Heathrow employee told the BBC the recovery time was faster than Gatwick’s because “we’re a good airport.” The two airports have been competing to win approval for an additional runway for several years.

Gatwick’s flight disruptions affected about 140,000 people — 82,000 of them EasyJet customers. Despite the disruptions, the airline is reporting it’s still on track to meet its full-year profit predictions.

The looming specter of Brexit may bring further uncertainty. Although EasyJet claims to be well prepared, the International Air Transport Authority said yesterday that up to five million tickets between Europe and the U.K. across all airlines may have to be canceled in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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