Heathrow arrivals are diverted to other airports as RAF plane demands ‘unplanned’ use of airspace


Pilot tells terrified passengers ‘We have five minutes’ fuel left’ as they circle Heathrow when dozens of flights including British Airways and Virgin are delayed or diverted by RAF’s ‘unplanned’ demand to close airspace

  • At least four British Airways flights and one Virgin Atlantic aircraft are diverted
  • Several other flights delayed as a result of planes being ‘stacked’ above airport
  • Comes after the RAF demanded an ‘unplanned’ use of airspace near Heathrow
  • Long backlog of flights waiting to land led to several planes running low on fuel
  • Were you left stranded by disruption? Email [email protected]

Passengers have been left stranded across the south of England after dozens of flights bound for Heathrow were diverted or delayed this morning after an RAF plane demanded an ‘unplanned’ use of airspace.

At least four Heathrow-bound British Airways flights and one Virgin Atlantic aircraft were forced to land at other airports such as Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

Meanwhile, many other flights were delayed as a result of planes being ‘stacked’ above Greater London as they waited for airspace to clear.

The hour-long backlog of flights waiting to land led to several planes running low on fuel, forcing them to seek clearance to divert to nearby airports. 

Passengers of one Virgin Atlantic flight revealed how the pilot announced over the tannoy that they only had ‘five to ten minutes’ of fuel left and had to land at Gatwick.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed to MailOnline that the disruption was caused by one of its jets from RAF Northolt extending its sortie into civilian air space.  

Passengers have been left stranded across the south of England after dozens of flights bound for Heathrow were diverted or delayed this morning after an RAF plane demanded an 'unplanned' use of airspace

Passengers have been left stranded across the south of England after dozens of flights bound for Heathrow were diverted or delayed this morning after an RAF plane demanded an ‘unplanned’ use of airspace

Flights arriving at Heathrow have been diverted after an RAF plane demanded an 'unplanned' use of airspace (stock)

Flights arriving at Heathrow have been diverted after an RAF plane demanded an ‘unplanned’ use of airspace (stock)

Flight data shows how the hour-long backlog of flights led to several planes running low on fuel, forcing them to seek clearance to divert to nearby airports

Flight data shows how the hour-long backlog of flights led to several planes running low on fuel, forcing them to seek clearance to divert to nearby airports

British TV producer Anne Henry told The Mirror how her Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles was diverted to Gatwick due to a lack of fuel.

She told Mirror Online: ‘It was quite alarming when the captain announced after circling Heathrow for a while, “Ladies and gentlemen we have about five to ten minutes” fuel left so we may need to divert to Gatwick’.

‘We’ve been on the ground for about an hour but we’re not allowed to get off.

‘The official line from the pilot on the tannoy has been “security incident”. Tough for the crew as they’ve only had one or two hours of sleep and have to keep going.’

The closure of airspace – which began at around 9am on Friday – lasted for approximately 20 minutes.

Other passengers claimed that pilots had also informed them over the tannoy that the situation had been caused by a security incident.

Were you caught up in the disruption? 

A Heathrow spokesman told MailOnline that the incident was not security related, but refused to elaborate further.

He added: ‘Arrivals were paused briefly this morning due to an RAF request for an operational flight within part of Heathrow’s airspace.

‘Arrivals are now operating as normal.’

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson added: ‘The RAF can confirm that a flight was completed this morning by one of our assets from RAF Northolt.

‘This flight was coordinated with Heathrow ATC but had to extend by a few minutes to complete its sortie. The minor delays caused to civilian air traffic are regretted.’ 

The Ministry of Defence confirmed to MailOnline that the disruption was caused by one of its jets from RAF Northolt (stock image) extending its sortie into civilian air space

The Ministry of Defence confirmed to MailOnline that the disruption was caused by one of its jets from RAF Northolt (stock image) extending its sortie into civilian air space 

Passengers took to social media in the aftermath of the incident as they appealed for more information.

One wrote: ‘I’m on one of the few planes that were now cleared for landing’

‘Our pilot just informed us that they’re restricting arrivals to allow a plane with a security incident on board to land.’ 

Another passenger added: ‘Captain said Heathrow is closed for arrivals for a ‘security incident’ but nothing in the news. What’s going on?’

A third said: ‘Still on the ground and waiting for info.. Seems like there is two options right now, refuel and get back to Heathrow or bus to London.’

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said: ‘Our VS8 flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow has diverted to Gatwick due to a brief closure of airspace over London Heathrow.

‘The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority, we’re now doing all we can to get our customers to their final destination as quickly as possible.

‘We’d like to apologise to our customers for the disruption to their journey and thank them for their patience.’

 

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