London Heathrow is to switch to single-runway operations from 6 April, following a substantial fall in the traffic demand at the UK capital hub.

The airport has two parallel runways – designated 09L/27R and 09R/27L – which will alternate on a weekly basis, to mitigate noise impact.

Heathrow’s operator states that the simplified operation, a temporary measure while the coronavirus crisis persists, is intended to “increase resilience and safety for colleagues, passengers and cargo”.

Eurocontrol data indicates that activity at Heathrow has fallen by more than 85% compared with last year. British Airways is the primary operator at the airport.

Heathrow traffic

Source: Eurocontrol

London Heathrow traffic activity 20 February-2 April 2020

The airport normally alternates its runway use, swapping the departure and arrival runways about halfway through the day, at 15:00, when operations are towards the west.

Both runways can be used for arrivals at peak time.

Operations towards the east are more restrictive, as a pact known as the Cranford Agreement prevented use of 09L for departures during the day.

While this agreement has ended, alternation for easterly operations is not expected until at least 2023-24 owing to changes relating to Heathrow’s third runway development.

The airport’s operator says Heathrow will remain open in order to serve as a “crucial” node for transport of medical supplies.

Over 40% of UK pharmaceutical products are being imported through the hub.