Heathrow Airport closed and flights diverted after RAF 'security incident'

London’s Heathrow Airport was closed and flights diverted after airspace was shut "due to an RAF request for an operational flight."

Friday, 17th January 2020, 12:20 pm

Dozens of flights to the airport were delayed or forced to divert while Britain's busiest airport suddenly closed its airspace for an RAF plane.

The RAF use of the airspace was "unplanned", a spokesperson for the airport in west London said.

Passengers said the pilots on their flights announced that the situation was caused by a "security incident".

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British Airways flights were diverted from Heathrow Airport.

A number of planes were forced to divert because they were running low on fuel.

At least five British Airways planes and one Virgin Atlantic flight diverted to other airports while aircraft were "stacked" in the skies around Greater London waiting for clearance to land.

A Heathrow spokesman told Mirror Online: “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.”

Passengers and air crew told how flights had to wait for clearance to land or divert to other airports, including Stansted in Essex and Gatwick in West Sussex.

British TV producer Anne Henry was on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Los Angeles that diverted to Gatwick shortly before it was due to land at Heathrow.

She told the newspaper: "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."

A BA spokesman said: "Like other airlines a small number of flights were affected by the temporary air traffic control reduction in the number of aircraft arriving at the airport this morning.

"Less than a handful of flights were diverted as a result, and continued to Heathrow shortly afterwards. We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but this is clearly a matter beyond all airlines' control."