Starting today, 6th April, London Heathrow Airport is closing one of its two runways and two of its four terminals. The closure comes as passenger demand is at all time lows following government-issued lockdowns and travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
The Northern runway (09L / 27R) will remain open, whilst the Southern (09R / 27L) will be closed. This will then alternate on a weekly basis to fairly distribute noise levels with regard to local residents.
Heathrow is normally Europe’s busiest airport and handled more than 80 million passengers in 2019. But due to the current crisis, total aircraft movements at the airport have dropped by around 85% in the past few days, data from Eurocontrol shows. With flights and passenger traffic at these unprecedentedly low levels, Heathrow is closing its Terminals 3 and 4. These terminals are normally the homes to Oneworld and SkyTeam alliance members respectively, with Virgin Atlantic and Emirates being some of the other larger airlines that operate from Terminal 3.
Terminals 2 and 5 will remain open, with Terminal 2 normally being the exclusive home to Star Alliance airlines and Terminal 5 home to British Airways and Iberia. Terminal 1 was closed in 2015 and is currently being demolished in order to allow Terminal 2 to expand.
The airport states that the consolidation of efforts will reduce costs, allowing them to retain as many jobs as possible. This is the first time that a runway at the international hub has been closed for an extended period of time, as maintenance and resurfacing work is normally carried out in phases throughout the night. Heathrow operates night time curfew hours between 2330 and 0600 local time. Under these circumstances, one runway is always operational for emergency purposes.
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Matt is a Berlin-based writer and reporter for International Flight Network. Originally from London, he has been involved in aviation from a very young age and has a particular focus on aircraft safety, accidents and technical details.