EasyJet fork out £15m over Gatwick drone sightings chaos

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 22nd Jan, 2019) London, Uk – –

The airline says it did its best to look after customers when drone sightings forced the runway to be shut down for 36 hours

EasyJet has said the chaos at Gatwick caused by drone sightings before Christmas cost it £15m, describing it as a “wake-up call” for UK airports.

The airline said welfare costs had topped £10m for 82,000 customers affected by 400 flight cancellations.

It added that the cost of cancelling the services and lost sales would hit first-quarter revenues by £5m.

Almost 1,000 flights in total were axed across 19 and 20 December at the start of the festive getaway.

Police blamed the closure of the airport on “numerous instances” of illegal drone activity in and around the perimeter.

Their inquiry is continuing after a couple arrested in the early stages of the investigation were released without charge.

EasyJet outlined the impact on its business in a trading statement which remained largely positive, the company saying bookings remained “encouraging” despite uncertainty over Brexit.

It reported revenues in the three months to 31 December of almost £1.3bn – a rise of 13.7% on the same period in 2017.

Passenger numbers were 15% up at 21.6 million, despite capacity being hit by the drone issue.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said the company “did everything we could to help our customers affected by the incident”.

But he later added: “We were disappointed that it took a long time 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.”

The chaos did prompt other airports, including Heathrow, to re-examine their defences against drones, though there have been a number of further scares since.

Brexit remains another major risk for the airline sector.

Those with particular exposure to EU travel, including easyJet and Ryanair, have been scrambling to shield themselves from potential disruption in the event of a “no-deal” scenario clouding the current open-skies arrangement.

EasyJet said on Tuesday that it was “well prepared for Brexit. It now has 130 aircraft registered in Austria and has made good progress in ensuring it has a spare parts pool in the EU27 and in transferring crew licences, both of which will be completed by 29 March”.

It added: “Despite the consumer and economic uncertainty created by Brexit, demand currently remains solid and forward bookings for the period after 29th March are robust.”

EasyJet shares opened almost 1% lower when trading began on the London Stock Exchange.