The drone scare at Gatwick airport that closed the runway for 33 hours shortly before Christmas cost over £50m.
The Independent has extrapolated figures provided by easyJet to calculate the financial damage caused by unauthorised drone activity at the Sussex airport.
Gatwick is easyJet’s biggest base, and easyJet has the largest operation at Gatwick.
When the world’s busiest runway was closed, the airline cancelled more than 400 flights. The grounded flights cost easyJet £5m in lost revenue. In addition, says the airline, there was a “£10m cost impact of the drones at Gatwick relating to customer welfare costs”.
Airlines whose flights are cancelled or heavily delayed are obliged under European air passengers’ rights rules to provide meals, accommodation and alternative transport.
Around 1,000 flights were cancelled during the busiest week of the winter for outbound departures from Gatwick.
Assuming that easyJet’s financial hit from the incident is mirrored proportionately by other airlines, the total damage to carriers is between £35m and £40m.
Gatwick airport itself lost at least £15m in revenue, with some sources suggesting the final figure could be twice as high.
Therefore the drone activity cost the aviation business £50m-£70m. Insurance companies will also have faced significant claims.
The incident affected 82,000 easyJet passengers, for whom it paid an average of £122 per person in care costs.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, said: “I am proud of the way our teams worked around the clock to mitigate the impact of the incident and looked after affected customers.”
Despite the incident, he said, the airline was expecting to make profits “broadly in line with current market expectations”.
Ahead of Brexit, easyJet has re-registered 130 of its aircraft – nearly half of its total fleet – with its Austrian subsidiary. The move, which has been dubbed “easyBrex”, is intended to allow the UK airline to continue to operate within the EU27.
The airline said: “Despite the consumer and economic uncertainty created by Brexit, demand currently remains solid and forward bookings for the period after 29 March are robust.”
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