London Gatwick Airport was forced to suspend all flights Thursday due to drones flying over the airfield, causing misery for tens of thousands of stuck passengers just days before Christmas.
Flights into Gatwick, south of the British capital, were diverted to other airports while passengers waiting to take off faced gruelling delays.
Gatwick is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single runway air hub.
A cat-and-mouse manhunt is underway to catch the drone operator.
Two drones were first spotted flying over the airport at around 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday. The airfield briefly reopened at 3am on Thursday, but had to be closed again following further sightings.
“All flights to and from Gatwick are suspended due to ongoing drone activity around the airport. Unfortunately, there are significant delays and cancellations to all flights,” the airport said.
“We apologise to everyone affected, but the safety of all our passengers and staff is our number one priority.”
Some 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night, and a further 110,000 were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.
More than 20 police units from two forces were searching for those responsible.
“We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related,” said Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw of the local Sussex Police force.
“Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears; when we look to reopen the airfield, the drone reappears.”