The west London airport announced that 15% of its 1,200 flights due to take off or land on Monday will be disrupted “to avoid noise”.
It comes after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) imposed strict flying restrictions in central London and Windsor on Monday (19 September).
Between 6am and 8.59pm today, no aircraft, including drones, are to fly below 2,500ft over the areas, where services will take place including a state funeral at Westminster Abbey and a committal service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The ban includes any small balloon, any kite weighing not more than two kilograms, any unmanned aircraft and any parachute including a parascending parachute or paramotor. The CAA said it “decided that it is necessary in the interests of security” to bring in the measures.
Exceptions to the restricted flight plans include aircrafts flying from London City Airport, London Heathrow Airport, Royal Air Force Northolt and London Heliport. Flights under the control of the National Police Air Service, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services or the King’s Helicopter Flight will also be able to go ahead.
What has Heathrow said?
Heathrow Airport has confirmed that no flights will be allowed to take off or land for 15 minutes before and after the two-minute silence at the end of the funeral on Monday.
Following that, there will be no arrivals between 13:45 BST and 14:20 BST during the procession of the hearse, and no departures between 15:03 BST and 16:45 for the ceremonial procession via the Long Walk to Windsor Castle. Between 16:45 BST and 21:00 BST, departures will be reduced to support the committal service at St George’s Chapel.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “Heathrow, Nats (the air traffic control provider) and airlines are supporting the ceremonial aspects for Her Majesty QueenElizabeth II’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey and the committal service at Windsor Castle on Monday.
“As a mark of respect, operations to and from the airport will be subject to appropriate changes in order to avoid noise disruption at certain locations at specific times on Monday.”
British Airways – the most-affected airline – will cancel 100 short-haul flights due to the restrictions, and Virgin Atlantic said it will cancel four flights.
A British Airways spokesman said: “As a mark of respect for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her state funeral, we have reduced our schedule and retimed some flights at Heathrow to ensure the skies are quiet at certain moments on Monday. Our thoughts remain with the royal family and the nation.”
It comes after British Airways was forced to cancel 16 flights on Wednesday during the Queen’s coffin procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.
Heathrow has also warned that many roads near the airport will be closed on Monday due to the events in Windsor, with passengers “strongly advised” to use London Underground and rail services to get to and from the airport.
Could other airports and airlines be disrupted?
Flights will be disrupted at Heathrow Airport for the state funeral, but elsewhere scheduled flights should go ahead as normal.
However, some airlines and airports may choose to give staff the day off for the Queen’s funeral on 19 September, with the government saying it expects employers “to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work”. As such, airlines and airports may be running at reduced capacity, meaning flights could be affected if there are staff shortages.
Both British Airways and easJet are already operating hundreds of flights fewer than originally planned due to resourcing issues, so it is unlikely that extra flights will be put on.
An easyJet spokesperson said: “Given our extensive flying schedule into and around the UK, we do not have any current plans to increase flying over the coming days. We are already operating up to 1,700 flights day, almost 300 operating into London, and 230 operating domestically each day.”
The budget airline has advised passengers who need to change their travel plans this week to phone their call centre.
A spokesperson added: “During this exceptional time, we recognise that some customers may need to change their travel plans and they can do so by calling our call centre [0330 551 5151] where staff will be able to use discretion to offer fee-free changes on a case-by-case basis.”
Loganair is also offering extra flexibility to customers with bookings during this period. The airline said in a statement: “We know at this extraordinary time, families and friends may wish to come together and reconsider their travel plans in the coming weeks. In light of these circumstances, Loganair is offering extra flexibility to customers with bookings for travel during this period:
“Should you wish to make a change to your travel date(s), you may do so free of charge and move to another flight date during the month of September.
“If you were due to attend an event that has been confirmed as rescheduled or cancelled, then you may request a credit voucher for the original value of the journey by completing this form. In this instance, you will be required to provide supporting documentation of a major event cancellation or rescheduling that you were due to attend.
“The quickest and easy way to make changes is online and our Customer Help Centre is extremely busy right now – so we kindly ask that you please only call us if you really need to.”
Were foreign heads of state allowed to fly to London?
Foreign heads of state and their spouses heading to London for the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II have been asked to arrive in the UK on commercial flights.
World leaders have been banned from using helicopters to get around “due to the number of flights operating at this time” and have been told they cannot use their own state cars to attend the funeral, and will instead travel in escorted coaches from a site in west London, according to leaked documents seen by Politico.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has advised foreign leaders that London Heathrow airport will not be available for private flight arrangements or aircraft parking, and leaders who insist on travelling via private jet should instead arrive at “less busy airports” around London “where possible”.
Flight disruption is expected to primarily affect Heathrow and Stansted, and air traffic restrictions may be imposed at Heathrow as flights normally arrive over central London and take off over Windsor, where the Queen will be interred.
As for other passengers travelling from UK airports, the FCDO has warned that “unforeseen events may require commercial and private flights to divert from the intended airport of arrival.