The government will allow Heathrow to take emergency measures to clear a back-log of passengers during periods of severe disruption, it announced yesterday.
The airport will begin a trial allowing mixed-mode operation of runways - with aircraft taking off and landing on both runways - following bad weather or other serious delays. It could mean the runways being used solely to allow aircraft to take off.
However, the government said existing capacity restraints would remain in place at Heathrow and mixed-mode operation would not be allwoed at other times.
The measures, set out in a report by the government's South East Airports Taskforce, drew immediate criticism for failing to address the lack of airport capacity in the region. Lobby group London First said: "The reality is 60% of planes arriving at Heathrow are held in a holding pattern, causing delays."
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) welcomed the proposals for “adding robustness” and a move to a risk-based approach to aviation security.
BAR UK chief executive Mike Carrivick said: “The proposal to allow greater flexibility of runway capacity during times of disruption will hopefully go a long way to enhancing the limited operational robustness of Heathrow.
But he said: “The proposals do not address the airport capacity needed to maintain the UK's competitive edge in aviation, and the economy in general.”
Carrick said: “The report also covers work in progress with the UK Border Agency which remains an area of great concern to airlines. BAR UK believes the agency has not been provided with adequate resources.”
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