NATS lands Heathrow 5-year contract extension

NATS and Heathrow have had a long and successful relationship, working together to operate the world’s busiest and most efficient dual runway airport before the impact of the Covid pandemic.

In 2019 Heathrow was the seventh busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers, regularly seeing over 1,300 daily air traffic movements. One year later and that figure had fallen to just 134 as countries closed their borders to control the spread of the virus. 

In the face of such a dramatic fall, NATS turned its operational experience towards working with the airport to understand when to close and reopen its stands, terminals, and runways. That analysis helped keep costs as low as possible while ensuring the airport remained open to the vital medical, cargo and vaccine flights that needed it.

Kathryn Leahy, Heathrow’s Director of Operations, said: “We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership as Heathrow recovers from the most challenging period in the airport’s history. NATS was quick to adapt when two of the world’s busiest runways were brought to a near standstill by the pandemic, and we’re excited to work with their teams and take advantage of the latest technologies, to ensure our airport is even more efficient and resilient as we modernise our airspace.”

Guy Adams, NATS Commercial Director, added: The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult, but through that adversity I think our relationship has emerged even stronger and I’m delighted that Heathrow is continuing to put its trust in us. The contract extension will allow us to continue working together as the industry recovers from Covid, and we seek to help the airport return to pre-pandemic traffic levels and performance.”

Traditionally scheduled to 98% capacity, NATS and Heathrow have a track record of collaborating on ways to improve operational performance and resilience. In 2015, Heathrow arrivals became the first in the world to be separated by dynamically calculated time-based intervals, rather than traditional set distances. That change cut headwind related delays by 62%, improving on time performance while also cutting airline fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

Adams continues: “We’re excited to get on with delivering significant, innovative new projects with the airport, including investment in digital tower technology as part of a new contingency facility.”

The extended contract is between Heathrow Airport Ltd and NATS Services Ltd.