The wild logistics of Heathrow Airport will instantly devour its much-needed third runway.
Heathrow operates at close to 99 per cent capacity. Every day, 213,000 passengers land or depart, with a plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds. And a third runway isn’t going to release the pressure
There is no other airport that does so much with so little as Heathrow. The constraints on its capacity have made it the busiest two-runway airport in the world, leading to catastrophic delays if anything goes wrong. But the limits have also sparked innovation in airport management, from robotic baggage handlers and F1-designed simulation software to rejigging wake vortex classifications so arriving planes can land closer together.
Heathrow operates at close to 99 per cent capacity, one reason why the airport wants a third runway. A cabinet subcommittee this week approved the controversial plans, which will see half a village bulldozed, though future approvals and legal challenges remain.
Heathrow is capped at 480,000 annual “movements” – the industry jargon for arrivals or departures — and currently operates at about 475,000 each year. Every day, 213,000 passengers land or depart, with a plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds — about 1,300 a day. Last year, it flew more than 78 million passengers.
Compare that to other leading airports: in 2015 Heathrow topped 72m passengers; Paris’ Charles De Gaulle, which has four runways, handled 62m; Frankfurt, which also has four, processed 58m passengers, and and Amsterdam’s Schiphol, with six runways, got through 53m. “Heathrow’s capacity utilisation is ordinarily around 99 per cent, which is way above the UK national average of approximately 40 per cent and also considerably higher than other major European Hub airports such as Paris Charles De Gaulle (70 per cent) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (65 per cent),” says Dr David Warnock-Smith, associate head of the School for Aviation and Security at Buckinghamshire New University.