Heathrow Airport signs deal to extend use of NATS’ capacity technology

29 February 2024

Heathrow Airport has signed a contract to extend and enhance their use of NATS’ Strategic Airport Capacity Management tool. 

Strategic Airport Capacity Manager (S-ACM) is a technology enabled service that utilises advanced analytics – such as modelling and simulation – to create operations insights. The tool works by creating a digital twin of an airport to support critical runway scheduling decisions, enabling the airport and airlines to optimise schedules and ensure resilient and efficient operations. Evolving airline fleet mixes, constrained airport slot capacity and operating restrictions makes this a complex task at any airport, let alone the UK’s busiest and most capacity constrained.   

Heathrow has been able to use S-ACM to create two new arrival slots and, despite the downturn in traffic during global traffic restrictions, it has remained an essential tool for managing airport runway capacity. With global traffic now returning and even exceeding pre-Covid levels, S-ACM will be crucial in supporting the airport operation and future schedule planning.  


The 3-year contract extension includes additional operational data analysis capability as well as the development of new environmental reporting capabilities, a key metric for both NATS and Heathrow in managing and further understanding the environmental impact of future operations.  

Lucy Hodgson, capacity & planning lead at Heathrow Airport said: “With demand at Heathrow stronger than ever, it is an exciting time to be working alongside NATS to strengthen our capability in runway capacity related decisions.  Having the ability to assess a range of options against a variety of assumptions very quickly, whilst incorporating the experience of NATS colleagues as well as their wealth of operational data, allows us to be confident our schedules can be safely and efficiently delivered.” 

Chris Leeds, NATS Product Manager added: “It’s great to build on our long-standing partnership in supporting Heathrow’s runway capacity declaration process and data analysis activities.  Understanding  environmental impacts will become an increasingly necessary and important factor when considering the broader impact of future schedules.”

Analysing operational data provides valuable insights into a number of critical areas. For example, air traffic control workload can be linked to runway and taxiway demand. Throughput and delay can also be simulated based on weather, network restrictions and new airline routes. In addition, stand availability can be modelled to show the effects of evolving airline fleets as well as demand patterns. 

S-ACM provides actionable insights based on impartial, data-driven capacity and performance analysis to declare the existing and future capacity of runways. S-ACM increases confidence in safety, optimises delivery and maximises benefits for all stakeholders at the airport. These processes are all aligned to IATA worldwide slot guidelines. 

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