London (CNN)The United Kingdom’s second-biggest airport has been closed for almost 12 hours after drones were seen over the airfield, stranding passengers just days before Christmas.
Flights were diverted or grounded at London’s Gatwick Airport after two drones were spotted near the airfield at around 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
The airport was briefly opened again at 3 a.m. but closed 45 minutes later after more drones were reported, Gatwick said in a statement.
It is illegal to fly drones within 1 kilometer of an airfield boundary and a police investigation was underway, the airport said.
Gatwick, a major international airport located south of London, remained closed on Thursday morning, with passengers stranded at the terminal or re-routed to other airports.
Passengers due to land at Gatwick were instead arriving in Manchester, Luton or Heathrow in the UK, or even as far afield as Paris and Amsterdam.
One passenger, Matt, said on Twitter he was waiting to board a coach at Manchester in the north of England — two hours after he was supposed to arrive at Gatwick at the other end of the country.
At Berlin’s Tegel Airport, heavily pregnant British woman Imogen Fletcher was left stranded for hours after her EasyJet flight to Gatwick was canceled.
The IT developer told CNN she had been on her way home for Christmas with her husband and daughter, but on Thursday morning she was left scrambling to find another flight.
Chaotic scenes at Gatwick
Passengers stranded at Gatwick in the early hours of Thursday described “total chaos,” with flights suspended and little information from staff.
Eddie Boyes was stuck at the terminal with his wife and four-year-old son for nine hours.
He told CNN they had received “no information from the airport — any information I have managed to get has been from social media.
We have been given food vouchers totaling £30 ($38), offered a hotel room initially but very shortly afterwards this was retracted.”
“People are sleeping on the floor in south terminal,” he said, adding it was an “utter shambles.”
In a statement, the airport said: “We ‘re sorry for the inconvenience today, but the safety of our passengers and staff is our no.1 priority.”