Passengers have slammed Gatwick Airport after "fights" broke out at the border and hundreds were stranded abroad amid air traffic control chaos.

Flights into the country's second busiest airport were delayed and cancelled this morning -  and the airport is blaming Covid-19 for the staffing shortages.

Furious business traveller Simon Jones said "it is a joke that is not funny any more" while stuck on the apron at Verona airport in Italy.

He was set to have departed at 11.05am local time on British Airways flight 2597 but took off some two hours later.

He said: "I am travelling on business, I ususally avoid Gatwick at all costs because it is so broken but this time I had no option. And now I'm paying the price.

"The litany of errors causing delays effectively rules out Gatwick as being viable for business travellers. It's impossible to rely on an airport that is so random."

The Argus: Gatwick AirportGatwick Airport

Even once flights landed at Gatwick this morning, passengers were faced with three-hour queues at the border.

Maddie Mantel was flying back from Faro in Portugal last night. She told The Argus: "We were meant to be flying at 8.05pm and it was delayed due to a lack of slots at Gatwick.

"We were told to board at 9.45pm but sat on the plane until 11pm because that is when the next take-off slot was.

Read more: 'Heavily intoxicated' man arrested after refusing to leave Gatwick flight

"Once we finally landed, we had to wait because there was a lack of taxis to get us to the terminal and once we were finally off there were queues before even getting into passport control. It was at a standstill.

"All the e-gates were shut. We landed at 1.23am and did not get out of the airport until 3.15am. They eventually opened some of the e-gates but as there were four separate flights arriving this caused massive fights as people who had only been waiting 30 minutes got through the gates beforehand.

"It was chaos and there was no apology. At this time in the morning it should be a simple process."

The Argus: The inside of Frank's plane stuck at Barcelona airportThe inside of Frank's plane stuck at Barcelona airport (Image: Frank Schuengel)

It comes days after dozens of flights were cancelled due to a shortage of air traffic controllers at the airport.

Teacher Sam Sale said had "never seen anything like it". She added: "There were kids and babies. It was a sh*****w." 

Bad weather meant the usual 55 movements per hour on the runway had to be limited this morning, on top of the staffing shortages.

A Gatwick spokeswoman said: "Due to poor weather and low visibility impacting flights this morning and short notice sickness in the Air Traffic Control tower including cases of Covid-19, temporary air traffic control restrictions have been put in place today.

"This is likely to cause delays and cancellations by some airlines.

“Passengers should check the status of their flight with their airline. We are working hard to minimise disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience.”