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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 00:58 GMT
Passengers annoyed by Gatwick shutdown
Stranded passengers at Gatwick Airport
Many passengers had to sleep overnight in hotels
Passengers left stranded at Gatwick Airport after the security alert appeared to be more annoyed at the disruption, than alarmed.

John and Margaret Clay, from Northamptonshire, had their holiday flight to Toulouse, France, cancelled and had to book into an expensive hotel overnight.

We were told almost three hours after the flight was due to depart that it had now been cancelled... it has been a mess

Holidaymaker John Clay
Mrs Clay, 58, said: "There are no hotels left around here now for less than 150. This was the cheapest we could find.

"We have no travel insurance so this is coming out of our own pocket. I feel sorry for any young travellers who have got cheap flights to save money, and may find themselves tonight having to book into expensive hotels."

Mr Clay, 60, added: "It has been a shambles. We were told almost three hours after the flight was due to depart that it had now been cancelled... it has been a mess."

'Not their fault'

The Sussex airport's north terminal was shut for five hours on Thursday, after a passenger who had been on a flight from Colombia was found to be carrying a live hand grenade.

BA cancelled 21 - mostly European - flights, with a further 21 incoming flights also cancelled as a knock-on.

We were only going out for a few days but now we must find a hotel here for a night

Passenger Ekaterina Nosenko
Many passengers were trying to find accommodation late in the evening, in the hope of flying out on Friday instead.

Thousands remained in the departure lounge of the North Terminal on Thursday evening, and many were left queuing at hotel reservation desks to try to find a bed for the night.

Russian friends Natasha Malysheva, 28, and Ekaterina Nosenko, 29, had their flight to Valencia, Spain, cancelled a couple of hours after it was due to leave.

Ekaterina said: "We were only going out for a few days but now we must find a hotel here for a night. Hopefully, we are on a flight tomorrow."

Asked whether she felt the flight operators should have done more to help customers find temporary accommodation, she said: "I suppose it depends on how they wish to treat their customers. I know it was not their fault but maybe they could have helped more."

Stranded troops

Among the stranded passengers were troops from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, who had flown in from Germany for a last weekend with loved ones before being deployed to the Gulf.

This is almost akin to the weather problems we have experienced - it is not a problem that has been in our control

BA
Trooper Ryan Reid, 26, who was hoping to get a connecting flight to Edinburgh, said: "It's so frustrating. We haven't got much time and we're due to head back on Tuesday."

BA said it was helping stranded passengers find accommodation for the night, but said it was not legally obliged to do so.

A spokesman said: "It does not fall into the normal criteria of doing that.

"This is almost akin to the weather problems we have experienced. It is not a problem that has been in our control."

The spokesman said the company would work to put any passengers still wishing to fly out of Gatwick on another flight as soon as possible.

He hoped normal business would be resumed on Friday.


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