I planned our winter holiday in July last year. My daughter Sofia, my boyfriend John and I would be spending Christmas at my parents’ house in Italy. “Booked!” I screamed once I read the notification that my payment for the flight tickets had gone through.
In September, we started the countdown.
In November, I spent a week in Italy to deal with errands that would be difficult to do over Christmas, like seeing my accountant, my consultant at the bank and so on. I had the chance to spend time alone with my parents and catch up with a few friends. After over a year abroad, the warm embrace of my folks overwhelmed my heart. Plus I’d be back in only a month’s time, just before Christmas. Maybe I could even celebrate my 50th birthday there.
On 20th December, I checked my messages and emails just before the taxi driver arrived at 6 am. Nothing from EasyJet, but a piece of news caught my eye. Gatwick airport had been closed the night before and flights suspended because of drones sighted flying over the airport. My legs trembled. I inhaled deeply, and shook off that awful sensation. The article referred to the night before, surely the situation now was under control.
At 8.45 am, we were at Gatwick airport, queuing up to drop off our bags. We were excited at the thought of what we’d do that afternoon and the following days in Italy, what we’d eat, who we’d see, but above all we were excited about spending Christmas with granny, grandad, Sofia’s cousins and the rest of our family, for the first time after 6 years.
However, it was not meant to be. The check-in procedures stopped when it was almost our turn: the airport had just been closed, and all flights due to depart before 2 pm (ours included) had been cancelled.
In the hope to find another flight from another airport, and that the airline would arrange the transport, we patiently waited for four hours to talk to an EasyJet customer service representative.
“We have no flights available to Italy until the 26th December. I’m very sorry. You may try with another airline. We’ll refund you the fare.”
In a state of trance, we checked flights online with British Airways from Gatwick for later in the afternoon or for the following day. Every time we wanted to book them, the flights disappeared. Therefore, we took the shuttle to the South Terminal to go and book the tickets in person, if that was at all possible. During the short ride, a few passengers near me shouted, “Look at the drone! Over there!” but I couldn’t see it. One thing was obvious though: the airport would stay shut in the afternoon too. It was already 1.30 pm. The chances to fly out from Gatwick that day were non-existent.
At the South Terminal, there were passengers everywhere, making it difficult to move around with our suitcases. We gave up the idea of reaching British Airways and went to Costa’s for a bite to eat instead. The tears that had been welling in the sockets of my eyes flooded my face. I felt I had failed my parents and my daughter, and John. Our 10-days holiday would be reduced to three days if I didn’t find another way to get to Venice before Christmas. Three days! Was it worth it? I felt like giving up, cancel the return journey and go home.
Nevertheless, three days were better than nothing, and the more we waited the less chances we had to leave even on the 26th. Sniffling, I went online and accepted the flight offered to us, at 8.30 pm on 26th December.
The following days we did our best to enjoy the Christmas holidays and at last, we flew out to Venice.
In those three days, we fitted in everything we could, however, a visit to Vicenza had to be cut short because of the unseasonable bitter cold and the heavy fog, it was far too cold to go to Venice so Verona had no competition; Padua was magical; and my improvised birthday party was a success.
After a month, the question, “Who forced Gatwick to suspend all flights for 36 hours?” is still unanswered. Actually, it seems that, “Some of the drone sightings which kept Gatwick Airport on lockdown for 36 hours may have been reports of Sussex Police's own aircraft, the force's highest-ranking officer admitted yesterday. “ (The Telegraph, 29 December 2018)
Yes, you read it correctly. Police’s equipment. A few days ago, the same happened at Heathrow but just for an hour on 8th January.
Anyway, who can profit from this drone hysteria?
I think there are two possibilities:
What do you think about it, dear Seeker? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Save the date: my next blog post will go live on 21st February.