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4 Jan 2021

As a result of ongoing tighter government COVID-19 restrictions and with a large number of countries now closed to UK air traffic, we have seen a significant reduction in passenger numbers at Heathrow, in addition to resourcing constraints. Consequently, we have consolidated our operations and returned to single runway operations from Friday 1 January 2021. This means instead of operating one runway for departures and one runway for arrivals, we will see departures and arrivals on a single runway.

From Monday 4 January 2021 we will be using the southern runway (27L/09R). We will alternate which runway we use on a weekly basis whilst we remain on single runway operations.

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

During this 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.