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06 Nov 2020

COVID-19 has, and continues to have, a devastating impact on Heathrow’s operations. As a result we will be consolidating our operations and returning to single runway operations from Monday 9 November. This means instead of operating one runway for departures and one runway for arrivals, we will see departures and arrivals on a single runway using mixed mode operations.

This is a temporary measure due to the substantial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on Heathrow’s operations. As a result of the Government’s decision to implement a second lockdown which prohibits all but essential travel, and similar restrictions in Europe, we are anticipating that the airport will shortly return to similar traffic levels seen in May this year – at around a 97% reduction in passenger levels compared with 2019.

Moving to single runway operations will provide safety improvements, such as reducing runway crossings, ensuring that the airport is able to remain open with such minimal aircraft movements. It will also improve our ability to adapt to any reduction in staffing levels either from NATS or our Airfield Operations colleagues as a result of rising COVID-19 levels.

We will be alternating which runway we use on a weekly basis to ensure our local communities continue to get respite periods. Due to the significantly lower number of aircraft operating from the runway we will also be able to provide alternation on easterly operations – something we can’t currently provide during our usual schedule.

During the period of single runway operations there may be times when we do need to operate on both runways for a short period of time – mainly when there are peak periods (e.g. if there are a higher number of arrivals in the morning which is normally our busiest time of the day), or if we experience adverse weather conditions. This time of year is when fog and strong winds are most prevalent which can heavily impact our operations. For example, poor weather conditions can mean that the number of departures that are able to take off each hour has to be reduced for safety reasons, along with increased spacing between arriving aircraft. The knock-on effect of this can lead to flights operating later than usual in order for us to recover from the disruption, and so to mitigate against this, we would look to use both runways during poor weather conditions to prevent further delays and disruption.

At present we are not able to predict how long we will need to operate in this way, but we will continue to review this situation and will look to revert to our usual operation when the number of daily aircraft movements significantly increases. 

For further information including our revised runway alternation schedule please see our Runway Alternation page. We will also continue to provide daily updates on our runway operations on our Heathrow Noise Twitter page as usual.