Heathrow to add 25,000 more flights per year

World's busiest runways set to see five percent more planes take off and land despite opposition

A passenger aircraft operated by Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. flies past a control tower at London Heathrow Airport in London, U.K., on Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA and budget carriers EasyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc all have significant revenue exposure to the U.K., according to analysts at Bernstein. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
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Heathrow airport is set to squeeze in an additional 25,000 flights per year on the world’s busiest runways, regardless of whether construction of a long planned a third runway goes ahead or not.

Under consultation proposals published on Tuesday, the UK’s largest airport outlined its ambition to increase operations by 5 percent and alter the way planes approach Heathrow.

Radical changes could see both runways used for landing in a shift towards independent parallel approaches (IPA). It currently uses one runway for arrivals and one for departing planes.

The airport said it could expand capacity by up to 68 extra flights per day while reducing noise pollution from large parts of London and the south east of England with changes to some flights paths.

The west London airport would need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to add 25,000 extra flights per year because they would exceed its current 480,000 annual cap put in place in 2002.

“Heathrow’s aim is to design a sustainable, fair and more efficient future airport while connecting the UK to global growth,” said Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director for expansion. “It is crucial that our plans maximise the benefits of expansion across the country, including for the communities closest to us—and working in partnership with our neighbours is just one way of ensuring they do so.”

John Stewart, chair of local residential group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN), said Heathrow’s plan amounted to a “near-revolution of its flight paths”.

“Although runway alternation will be cut in West London (due to the proposed 3rd runway), it will be extended to vast swathes of London and Home Counties for arrivals & departures, ending all-day flying in these places.”

A spokesperson for environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth labelled Heathrow’s plans as a “disaster”.

“We’re not convinced that it will be of benefit to the UK economy”, said Maggie Thorburn.


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Other proposals put forward by Heathrow include a night time flying ban, which restricts planes from the area for seven hours a day.

Extra flights could mean new opportunities for Middle East travel. Landing slots are governed by Airport Coordination Limited (ACL), an independent body responsible for slots for flight routes to and from UK airports including those to other major hubs such as Dubai International Airport.

EU rules stipulate that 50 percent of new slots are to be allocated to new competitors at any airport. The UK does not permit auctioning of new slots.

In June last year, UK lawmakers supported plans for a third runway at Heathrow. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and environmental campaign group Greenpeace are among those opposed to expansion and have tabled legal challenges against the government.