Holidaymakers were embroiled in seven hours of delays after the Toronto-bound Air Canada flight hit debris on the runway which burst its wheels on take-off.
The Boeing 767 plane still managed to take off, but had to dump fuel and head back towards the airport for an emergency landing shortly after lunchtime.
All inbound and outbound flights were then grounded for more than an hour with inspections taking place on the runway, before its backup runway was opened at 3.30pm.
But shortly before 5pm its back-up runway was also closed after debris swept across the runway, meaning both its runways were shut, causing "carnage" for passengers.
Eventually most flights were either delayed, diverted or cancelled, resulting in a disasterous start to passengers' summer holidays as they stood in a packed terminal.
One passenger said: "Houston, we have a problem. Utter carnage at Gatwick thanks to a closed runway..."
Another tweeted: "Official carnage at the info desk as Gatwick is brought to a stand still!"
An earlier Gatwick statement read: "An Air Canada Rouge flight to Toronto has returned to gatwick after experiencing a burst tyre on take-off.
PAUP CLOSE: The tyre burst after hitting debris on the runway during take-off
"Following this Gatwick's runway has been closed since 2.12pm to allow for a runway inspection.
"The current runway closure follows an earlier closure between 1.16pm and 1.45pm when the runway was closed for an inspection after this aircraft departed.
"We apologise as some flights will be delayed as a result and a few arriving flights are likely to be diverted to other airports."
In an updated statement, a spokesman then said: "Flights are currently using Gatwick's back-up runway after the airport's main runway was closed.
"We apologise as flights for the rest of the day will experience delay and there will be some cancellations.
"Passengers are advised to speak to their airline for the latest flight information."
It is believed the main runway reopened shortly after the back-up runway was shut, at around 5pm, and operations started to get back underway.
The aircraft which saw its tyre burst returned to the airport at 1.10pm, but was pictured grounded on the runway surrounded by emergency vehicles before being towed away.
Despite the return of operations, many flights have been delayed, diverted or cancelled, affecting hundreds of passengers.