Airspace change

The changes to our flight paths follow a separate approvals process to the physical expansion of the airport on the ground.

To obtain permission for new flight paths associated with expansion, we need to submit an Airspace Change Proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). But we can only do that once we have Development Consent Order (DCO) consent. Both the airspace change and the DCO processes will be overseen by the Secretary of State for Transport.

We will not know what the final airspace design will be until after our flight path options consultation (in 2022), but we have considered the likely effects of flight paths as part of our assessment of environmental effects, presented in this consultation.

To do this we developed a range of indicative ‘test case’ airspace designs which show the range of potential effects. The test cases were based on the information we have at this early stage in the CAA airspace design process and are indicators of potential effects rather than being actual options for the airspace design. Actual options for flight paths can only come through the airspace change process which will involve detailed analysis of all the airspace design principles, including safety and technical considerations as well as environmental effects.

The test cases do not represent the final airspace design but provide a good basis to inform our environmental assessment for this stage of the DCO.

Consultation process

We have already undertaken two consultations on future flight paths for an expanded Heathrow: a consultation on our ‘design principles’ in early 2018 and a consultation on ‘design envelopes’ (geographical areas where future flight paths could be positioned) in early 2019. Following the first airspace consultation, we submitted our design principles to the CAA in September 2018. Our design principles are available at .

We are currently reviewing the responses to our consultation on design envelopes earlier this year. We had approximately 20,000 suggestions of ‘local factors’ within the design envelopes. These are locations that respondents would like us to take into account when designing flight paths for an expanded Heathrow. These ‘local factors’ will be entered into a database alongside known locations, buildings and sites which are known to be sensitive to noise and we will consider these during the airspace design process.

We will undertake a full public consultation of the flight path changes for expansion in 2022.

This consultation will follow ongoing airspace design work and stakeholder engagement and will provide an opportunity for you to have your say on our proposals for flight paths that aircraft will take when arriving at and departing from the airport.

For more information on the relationship between our DCO application and the Airspace Change Process, see our Future Runway Operations document.

Airspace changes for our two runway operation

We are also undertaking a number of changes to help our current two runway airport operate more efficiently. These changes include the introduction of Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA) and a redesigned Compton departure route on easterly operations.

We will also be looking to introduce slightly steeper approaches for arriving aircraft and changes required to enable us to alternate our runways when we are on easterly operations (which we were previously unable to do due to the legacy of the Cranford Agreement). More information on these airspace changes is available on our website at