Heathrow will close one of its two runways from Monday following the collapse in aviation demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes shortly after IAG – owner of British Airways, the largest carrier at the airport – announced further cuts to services.
The airport currently alternates flights taking off and landing at each runway, switching over during the course of the day on a biweekly pattern.
In a statement, Heathrow said: “This is a temporary measure due to the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and it will provide us with greater resilience and safety for our colleagues, passengers and cargo.
“It should be noted that at this time we are facilitating significantly fewer flights due to travel restrictions around the world.”
The hub airport is usually among the busiest in world and operates at near 100 per cent capacity all-year round.
A Heathrow statement added: “We are making this change as we believe that it is vital that Heathrow remains open so that critical repatriation flights and cargo services can continue to operate.
“The airport is playing a crucial role in facilitating the supply chain of vital medical goods and food for the nation, with 41 per cent of the UK’s pharmaceutical products being imported via Heathrow.
“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 air traffic controllers or our airfield operations colleagues.”
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