Updated | Two arrested over Gatwick drones released without charge

The two were held regarding the “criminal use of drones” following major disruptions at Gatwick Airport • Air Malta found alternative travel plans for its passengers • Suspects released as they satisfied investigating police officers of their innocence

A man and a woman have been apprehended over the
A man and a woman have been apprehended over the "criminal use of drones" over Gatwick Airport (Photo: Sky News)

Updated with verdict on the two suspects on Sunday

Detectives hunting for those behind the drone chaos that paralysed Gatwick Airport have released the only two people they have arrested and declared them innocent earlier today.

The couple has been ruled out of inquiries.

This essentially means that whoever flew those drones so close to the international airport are still at large.

Following the most disruptive incident ever caused by a drone at a major international airport, detectives interviewed the 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman from Crawley as forensic officers searched a house in the West Sussex town, three miles south of Gatwick.

A series of drone sightings above its runway had forced Britain’s second-largest airport to shut three times in three days last week, leaving about 140,000 passengers stranded. It was the airport’s biggest disruption since the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud of 2010.

In a statement, Det Ch Supt Jason Tingley, of Sussex police, said: “Both people have fully co-operated with our inquiries and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick."

Gatwick airport is offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the culprits.

Updated at 10.40am with Air Malta reaction

Two persons have been arrested in connection with the flying of drones over Gatwick Airport in the past few days.

The two, a man and a woman, were detained on Friday night over the “criminal use of drones”, Sussex police said.

They said the arrests were part of an ongoing investigation into the flying of drones which has caused significant disruptions for planes flying in and out of Gatwick Airport.

"We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice," superintendent James Collis said.

"The arrests we have made are a result of our determination to keep the public safe from harm. Every line of enquiry will remain open to us until we are confident that we have mitigated further threats to the safety of passengers."

Jones added that the police were putting into effect tactics aimed at building “resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones”.

Media reports said flights at the airport resumed on Friday evening, after they were suspended for more than an hour after a drone was spotted in the afternoon.

This followed major disruptions on Wednesday and Thursday, which led to the complete shutdown of the airport.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers were affected, in the midst of holiday season travels.

Air Malta reaction

In a statement issued Saturday morning, Air Malta said it had held a crisis meeting on 20 December in response the the drone incident at Gatwick. Its Management and Operations section evaluated the impact on operation and its customers.

On the morning of 20 December, to minimise disruptions to the morning flight to Gatwick, the airline changes its bookings of its customers bound for Gatwick to instead board the flight to Heathrow Airport.

For the passengers booked to travel on the return flight the call centre and ticket office found alternative solutions on other Air Malta flights and other airlines, it said.

“In the evening, 80% of all passengers were informed of their new travel plans which gets them to their destination as soon as possible.”

To prevent further disruptions, on 21 December Air Malta decided to operate two flights to London Southend Airport so that people had no risk of being faced with a cancelled flight, the airline highlighted.

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