Heathrow publishes ‘Operational Freedoms’ trial report

Heathrow has published a final report on the Operational Freedoms trial, which says that new procedures are needed to improve the benefit for passengers.

Heathrow operates at full capacity, and any disruption to schedules can result in late-running flights, passenger inconvenience and fuel wastage as planes burn more fuel as they wait to land. The Operational Freedoms trial was designed to assess whether a more flexible use of the airport’s runways, in certain situations, could minimise this disruption.

On reflection, the trial presented practical operational performance improvements in some areas, the report said.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s director of sustainability, says: ‘The trials have shown that implementing these new procedures could help create a more punctual and efficient Heathrow. This would bring benefits for passengers and local residents alike by reducing late-running flights, and also benefits for the environment by reducing aircraft stacking and emissions. However, we recognise that there is a need to minimise other impacts on local communities and we will continue to work with HACAN and residents to achieve this.’

The Department of Transport approved the Operational Freedoms trial in 2011, to test mechanisms for reducing delays at the UK’s hub airport. Among others, it included the use of both runways for arrivals and the use of both runways for departures, instead of the usual method of using one runway for arrivals and the other for departures.

The trial was not designed to increase the number of flights at Heathrow, but to improve reliability for those already scheduled.

The government has asked the Airports Commission to review Heathrow’s report, and also for the CAA’s own analysis of the Operational Freedoms trial and to suggest short and medium term options for the UK’s existing airport infrastructure. On publication of the Commission’s Interim Report in December, the Government will review the findings of the Airports Commission, CAA and HAL collectively to inform its next steps on Operational Freedoms.