Flights were suspended for two hours at London’s Gatwick Airport following a problem with its air traffic control systems.
The issue in the airport’s control tower triggered the suspension shortly after 5pm on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the airport said as of 7.30pm a total of 26 flights had been diverted and eight cancelled, but warned the number could change.
During the suspension, the airport apologised to passengers and said it was working with ANS, its air traffic control provider, to fix the problem.
Gatwick saids: “Due to an air traffic control systems issue in Gatwick’s control tower, flights were suspended between 17.08 and 19.00.
“Flights have resumed, but passengers are advised to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport as we return to full operations.”
A spokeswoman for NATS, the air traffic services provider for London’s Stansted and Luton airports, said flights had been mainly diverted to those locations.
Shilpa Ganatra, a travel journalist, who was supposed to be flying to Bilbao for a festival, learnt her flight was cancelled at the airport.
She said: “Vueling, who I was flying with, rebooked me on a Friday, indirect, overnight flight, which is obviously pointless.
“I’m just trying to find out how to reject that – I’ve had to rebook myself on a 6.30am Ryanair flight from Southend tomorrow, at a cost of £280 plus £60 in hotel and yet-to-find-out train fare.
“I’m hoping either my travel insurance or the airline will cover it, but it’s the stress of not being 100% sure and the hassle that’s the most infuriating thing, apart from the lost holiday time.”
She said other travellers “had it worse” with people “waiting hours to find out what was going on”.
Jennifer Jones, 31, from Hertfordshire, said her Norwegian Airlines flight which left Stockholm at 5.50pm was diverted to Birmingham Airport.
Passengers were sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half while their plane waited in a queue to refuel and fly to Gatwick.
“Everyone is pretty relaxed but bored I think,” she said.
“A few people have asked for food but they said they can’t do a food service right now.”
In an update to travellers, Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern franchises said: “Gatwick Airport passengers that have had their flight cancelled are able to use today’s tickets to make their way home via any route on our network, and will be able to use today’s ticket to travel on our network tomorrow as well.”
Aashna Shroff, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, warned passengers may not receive compensation if their journeys were affected by the suspension.
She said: “The delays at Gatwick are due to a problem with the air traffic control system and no fault of the airlines, so you’re unlikely to be compensated by your airline if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
“But it’s still worth checking with your airline what its policy is on delays and cancellations.
“It’s likely that delays caused by extraordinary circumstances, will not be covered by your airline.
“Extraordinary circumstances are typically events which are outside of the airline’s control, such as extreme weather and bird strikes.
“But delays or cancelled flights might be covered by your travel insurance, so check your policy documents.”