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  • Single Runway Operations

    As a result of the unprecedented impact that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having on Heathrow’s operation, we have temporarily moved to single runway operations. We will alternate which of our two runways is used on a weekly basis in order to ensure local communities continue to get respite periods, which we know are important to residents.

    This is a temporary measure that we will continue to review as and when flight numbers increase.


    Single Runway Operations

    Please click on the below link to find the weekly runway schedule. This schedule will apply from the first arrival on Monday morning until the last flight on Sunday night.

    Find out more about Single Runway Operations

    Heathrow has two runways – the northern runway (27R, 09L) and the southern runway (27L, 09R). In normal circumstances, we operate departures on one runway and arrivals on the other.

    Under single runway operations aircraft will be both arriving and departing on the same runway.

    Heathrow has moved to single runway operations as a temporary measure to increase resilience and safety for colleagues, passengers and cargo.

    We can only remain open if we can continue to operate safely and this move to single runway operations will improve our resilience should we see a further COVID-19 related reduction in staffing levels either from NATS or our Airfield Operations colleagues.

    Although we are seeing a significant reduction in the number of flights, Heathrow will remain open so that we can continue to play a crucial role in helping to secure vital medical goods and food for the nation, and facilitating repatriation flights during this unprecedented pandemic.

    Heathrow will continue to alternate between the northern and southern runways to ensure our communities get respite periods. Runway alternation will follow a weekly cycle instead of the daily alternation provided under our normal operations. The schedule for each week will apply from the first arrival on Monday morning until the last departure on Sunday night. 

    We will alternate between the southern and northern runway each week to ensure local communities continue to get periods of respite, which we know are important to residents. Due to the significantly reduced number of flights in place it does mean that we can facilitate this while on easterlies for departures as well, something that we are normally unable to do due to airfield constraints.

    This means that Cranford and surrounding communities will see departures when we are using the northern runway on easterly operations.

    The direction that aircraft fly at Heathrow depends on the direction of the wind. During westerly operations, when the wind usually blows from the west, aircraft arrive from the east over London. During easterly operations, when the wind blows from the east, aircraft arrive from the west over Berkshire.

    Heathrow operates with a ‘westerly preference’ during the day which means that even during periods of light easterly winds, aircraft will continue to land in a westerly direction, making their final approach over London. This was introduced in the 1960s to reduce the number of aircraft taking off in an easterly direction over London, the most heavily populated side of the airport. This ‘westerly preference’ will continue under a single runway operation.

    Our flight paths will be unaffected by this change to our runway operation.

    The departure route that aircraft use is driven by their destination, therefore the number of flights using a particular route will be driven by the flight schedule.

    We will be alternating which runway we use on a weekly basis to ensure our local communities continue to get respite periods. We will be using the southern runway one week and the northern runway the next week. 

    The schedule for each week will apply from the first arrival on Monday morning until the last flight on Sunday night. The runway alternation schedule is available through the above link. 

    This new runway alternation pattern will replace the current night flight alternation schedule.

    This change to single runway operations does not impact Heathrow’s night flight restrictions or quotas. 

    COVID-19 is an unpredictable pandemic that continues to have significant health and economic impacts around the globe, including on the global aviation industry. Whilst we are doing everything we can to support airlines, keep our community safe and keep Britain’s vital trading links open, we cannot predict when operations will return to normal. 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. We will update the community when this happens.