Gatwick airport has been shut down since Wednesday night UK time due to the presence of multiple drones around the perimeter of the runway. A drone was first spotted Wednesday evening in the vicinity of Gatwick’s runway. After being briefly re-opened several hours later, the runway was shut down for good when several more drones were discovered. Given the public safety risk of attempting to shoot the drones down from the ground, law enforcement is instead focusing on identifying and apprehending the drone operators to ensure that the area is safe for air travel.
This is not the first drone incident impacting airport operations, but it may be one of the costliest. The closure on Thursday alone affected over 100,000 passengers on 760 flights and is expected to continue through at least Friday evening local time. The closure raises numerous potential insurance coverage issues under liability policies of the owners, operators, and even manufacturers under the airlines’ and airport’s property insurance policies. Perhaps more significant will be the disruption of outgoing and incoming flights and the corresponding impact on revenues that raise business interruption and contingent business interruption issues. Gatwick airport is privately owned and operated by UK-based corporations, but as with any international business, the closure is likely to have far-reaching costs on public and private entities not only in the UK but at other airports worldwide that are disrupted by the grounded flights.
The Gatwick incident is another reminder that relatively small and inexpensive consumer drones can have an outsized impact on multi-million dollar business operations. This closure is especially timely in light of recent court cases interpreting insurance coverage for drone exposures, which will be the subject of an upcoming post. We will continue to monitor these important, emerging issues.