Hundreds of easyJet passengers had their flights to the UK cancelled on Sunday after three of the airline’s Gibraltar-bound flights were diverted to Málaga and Seville due to weather conditions at the airport.
The airline told the Chronicle that the flights were unable to land because the conditions in Gibraltar were “…outside of the landing limits of the aircraft, caused by a low cloud base.”
The airline did not comment on widespread speculation that the flights had been diverted in part due to problems with Gibraltar’s radar.
But a person on board one of the diverted easyJet flights said the pilot told passengers that air traffic controllers had advised against the landing because the radar was “not working” and low cloud cover would make the approach very difficult.
Some passengers waiting in the airport terminal also reported being told that the reason for the flights being cancelled was a problem with the radar.
The Chronicle understands that while the radar is operational, there are issues stemming from damage to a cable following the North Face rock fall on March 2.
The cable connects radar equipment to air traffic control and this may have been a factor in the decision to divert the flights on Sunday, given the poor visibility conditions and the need to ensure passenger safety.
The Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for the operation of the runway, would not be drawn on questions relating to the damaged cable.
“We do not comment on the material state of our assets,” a spokesman told the Chronicle.
“However, as previously stated the airfield remains open and continues to meet its operational commitments.”
On Sunday, easyJet’s Bristol and Manchester flights were diverted to Malaga and the London Gatwick flight was diverted to Seville.
“easyJet is doing everything possible to minimise the disruption for our customers, providing coaches to Gibraltar for those passengers diverted to Malaga and Seville,” the airline representative said.
However, the returning flights were cancelled leaving passengers with the “option of transferring their flight free of charge or obtaining a refund.”
In addition, the airline offered the provision of hotel rooms and meals for all passengers who required them.
The airline said these flights “were cancelled due to the delays caused to flight operations by the low cloud conditions in Gibraltar.”
Adding, “the safety of our passengers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority. Whilst this was outside of our control we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the weather.”
The British Airways London Heathrow flight also diverted to Malaga on Sunday morning due to weather conditions.
However, it returned to the Rock at approximately 2.30pm once the weather had cleared and departed an hour later.
The Air Maroc flight from Tangier landed and departed on time on Sunday afternoon.