Gatwick Airport: ‘exhausted’ passengers face queues ‘in excess of 1000 people’ amid flight chaos over staff absence

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Malcolm Murray said there were “no staff available” and by the time he arrived at border control the automatic gates “were not working”

A furious passenger has shared how he was met with queues “in excess of 1,000 people” from “various different arrivals” when he arrived at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of this morning (Friday 15 September).

Malcolm Murray, who arrived at Gatwick Airport after a flight from Egypt at 1.40am, told NationalWorld he was “exhausted” and “distressed” but he had “no option” but to stand in the huge queue.

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He was travelling with his two young children, much like the other travellers in the queue, he said, and everyone was unhappy.

Mr Murray said there were “no staff available providing assistance or direction” and “at one point some travellers took it upon themselves to skip to the front of the queue, which caused anger amongst people like ourselves who had waited.”

He said that when he finally got to border control he discovered that the automatic gates “were not working” and there were only seven people on the desks trying to get passengers through.

He added that he finally made it to the hotel at around 03.45am with “two very upset children”.

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He told NationalWorld: “Coming into an airport like Gatwick, you have all the technology sitting there not getting used while you stand there. What’s the point?

“We had a bad experience getting in and out of Egypt but I think the experience in Gatwick tops it off.”

Matt Whelan also took to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to share his annoyance at the huge queues and closed gates at Gatwick Airport.

He said: “Absolutely pathetic @Gatwick_Airport! Flight delayed due to lack of ATCs and now passport control is jammed with no gates and half the counters closed!!! Useless.”

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The huge queues and chaotic scenes in the early hours of this morning coincided with several flights being delayed and cancelled at the airport due to a staff absence.

The airport confirmed a short notice staff absence in its ATC tower, managed by National Air Traffic Services (Nats), which meant 42 flights were cancelled on Thursday (14 September). More than 6,000 passengers are likely to have been affected by cancellations.

It comes just over two weeks after a Nats technical glitch caused widespread disruption at airports across the UK, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded overseas for several days.

A spokesperson from Nats said flights at London Gatwick are “operating normally this morning” and it apologises “very sincerely to everyone who has been inconvenienced.”

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The spokesperson added: “We are working closely with Gatwick Airport Ltd to build resilience in the airport’s control tower to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.  New air traffic controllers have been recruited since last summer, increasing our presence by 17%, and others are due to start after completing their training, in line with the agreed plan when NATS took over the contract last October.

“London Gatwick’s senior management understands that we are working hard to keep the operation moving. Airlines operating at London Gatwick were aware of the situation when NATS was appointed but that does not dilute the apology we offer sincerely to them and their passengers who have been inconvenienced by recent disruption.  “

A London Gatwick spokesperson said: “There was a planned national e-gate outage last night for routine maintenance across all airports. Due to the schedule shift as a result of ATC issues more passengers were travelling through security during this time.”

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