Gatwick Airport was forced to close its main runway this evening after it discovered a "hole" on the tarmac, causing diversions and delays for thousands of passengers.
A small number of flights were diverted to Heathrow, it is believed, while other passenger reported their flights had been diverted to Southampton and Stansted. Other aircraft were stuck circling the skies in holding patterns while maintenance crews rushed to repair the damage, resulting in delays of around two hours to both arrivals and departures.
A spokesman for the south London airport, which is vying with Heathrow to be given the green light for expansion, said:
This evening at 7.40pm, Gatwick had to switch operations from its usual Southern runway to its stand-in Northern runway, as a precautionary measure, following findings during one of our regular maintenance checks.
During this change over we had a period of approximately ten minutes when the airport was unable to accept landing aircraft, resulting in approximately eight aircraft being diverted, and delays to flights.
We are working hard to resume usual operations and get passengers on their way"
- Gatwick Airport
According to Gatwick Airport's arrivals board, a flight from Dubai scheduled to land at 7.45pm was diverted, along with a 7.45pm arrival from Larnaca and an 8.15pm landing from Skiathos.
Flights from Valencia, Barcelona, Jersey, Shannon and Newquay, all due to arrive before 8pm, had been delayed by more than two hours, with most other flights due to land on Sunday evening suffering delays of around 60 to 90 minutes.
Departures were also delayed by around two hours after the incident.