Gatwick drone delays see fan battle 12-hour journey to make Worthing FC match

A dedicated Worthing FC fan has refused to let the drone disruption at Gatwick stop him from attending the team's derby match with Bognor on Saturday.

Worthing football club fan Nick Courtnage
Worthing football club fan Nick Courtnage

Nick Courtnage, an Easyjet cabin crew member, realised after a day of cancelled flights on Thursday due to drone sightings at Gatwick that there would be no space for him on the standby flight he had booked from Berlin to Gatwick on Friday morning.

However the fan, who grew up in Worthing and watched his first game at the club when he was six, was not prepared to miss the Saturday game.

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“There was no question of not being able to make it – only how was I going to make it,” he said.

This morning, after some hurried planning and a bit of luck, he embarked on a journey of more than 12 hours which saw him travel from his home in Berlin to Hamburg to Edinburgh to Stansted to Worthing.

The 34-year-old first heard about the drone sightings at Gatwick, which led to the airport being closed for around 36 hours, during a night stop in Zurich on Wednesday evening.

He said: “Stuff like that tends to be sorted out quickly, working in this industry you hear bits and bobs and not much comes of it. But as the day got on it got worse.”

He kept up with the news all day on Thursday but by the time he got home at 11pm he realised there was no chance of him using his standby ticket for the next day.

“So I had to be a bit creative,” he said.

Being able to check available seats through Easyjet meant he was able to work out a route home, but he said: “Without being staff, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,”

He left his home at about 5am today and was yet to arrive in Worthing when he spoke to the Herald at 4pm. But he said: “It all worked out in the end.”

Nick has lived abroad for almost four years but tries to return to watch matches whenever he can.

He usually manages to watch five or six a year, but said Saturday’s would be a particularly important game.

“It’s as big as it gets really,” he said. “It’s too exciting a place not to want to be there. The sport down there is amazing at the moment, it’s fantastic.

“I’m looking forward to being there and seeing all my old friends.”

From his perspective as a cabin crew member, he said the situation at Gatwick and the chaos caused for thousands of people was ‘frustrating’.

“We feel exactly the same way passengers do with delays and hold ups, it affects us as much as them,” he said.

“It’s really frustrating and disappointing to us.

“At Christmas as well it’s going to hit people harder. People’s lives are being affected – there’s people missing weddings or their last Christmas with an elderly relative.

“If it is a protest, there’s more effective ways of making a protest without affecting people who may have spent all year saving up for a flight. It’s not them that should be the target.”