Heathrow to Propose Adding 25,000 Flights a Year, Times Reports

(Bloomberg) -- London’s Heathrow Airport plans to increase the number of flights by 5 percent before opening a third runway as part of a 16-billion-pound ($20 billion) expansion plan, the Times reported, citing a spokeswoman.

The airport expects to add 68 more take-offs and landings a day in the next few years, which would exceed an existing flight limit set two decades ago when Terminal 5 -- home of British Airways -- was built. The Times said 25,000 new flights a year are planned.

Heathrow, west of London, also is requesting a ban on night flights when a third runway is built. The airport operator plans to build a two-mile runway to its northwest to allow the number of flights to grow to 740,000. The current limit is 480,000, the Times said.

A public comment period on plans for the airspace and future operations will start Tuesday and continue until March 4, according to the Heathrow website.

After decades of delays tied to concerns about extra noise, increased pollution, the demolition of homes and the impact on roads, construction of Heathrow’s third runway could begin as soon as 2021. The new landing strip is expected to open in 2026, lifting annual capacity to 135 million travelers from 2017’s 78 million.

Separately, the Financial Times reported Saturday that U.K. ministers are considering a wider drone-exclusion zone around commercial runways after Gatwick Airport, south of London, was closed for more than 24 hours when drones were sighted.

The government will publish a draft bill in May that would extend to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) the no-fly zone, from the current 1 kilometer.

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