Heathrow Airport may not need a new runway as strict rules on take-offs and landings are eased next month, The Independent reported.
The airport's congestion crisis could be solved with a 'silver bullet' solution unlocking up to 25 per cent more slots and allowing an extra 120,000 flights a year without an additional building.
Europe's busiest airport could introduce 'mixed mode' flying, where runways are used for both take-offs and landings at the same time meaning there would be no need for a third runway or a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
From 1 July, new rules will come into force increasing the number of circumstances for simultaneous runway use to be permitted.
Chief executive of Virgin Atlantic Steve Ridgway told The Independent: 'Mixed mode ... would allow a more efficient use of the existing, overstretched runways at Heathrow.'
When its working to full capacity, which it does most of the time, Heathrow can handle up to 44 departures and 43 arrivals every hour. Its nearest rival Gatwick has up to 54 movements an hour and is the world's busiest single-runway airport.
The move would allow more cities to be served non-stop from Heathrow and for airlines eager to expand snapping up more slots.
The looser rules on runway use at Heathrow are part of a trial taking effect on 1 July to reduce busy skies and delays on ground. It will allow more overnight flights from North America and Asia to land before 6am rather than 'stacking' over South-east England.
After an experiment this year, Heathrow's owner BAA said: 'Few residents interviewed knew about the trial or noticed its impacts.'
The tests do not allow any increase in aircraft movements and a switch to mixed mode would lift capacity without breaching the night-time curfew. However, west London residents could expect noise from arriving aircraft when the wind is from the west, which is 70 per cent of the time.
Chair of the anti-expansion group HACAN ClearSkies John Stewart said: 'The half-day period of peace and quiet would disappear and there would be a plane every 90 seconds all day long.'
See our pick of the world's most beautiful airports below...
The world's most beautiful airports
Heathrow could see end to airport congestion with big increase in capacity
Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, Bilbao's main airport terminal is known as "the dove". Frommer's describes it thus: "sharply-canted curves and lots of light streaming through, and bisected by, ribs which resemble cables."
Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, this spacious, modern terminal boasts "by far the best airport food court in New York". Frommer's also calls it "one of the greatest icons of the mid-20th century jet age." Praise indeed.
This huge, light-filled terminal, with its expansive spaces and undulating ceilings, was designed by Richard Rogers and Antonio Lamela and went on to win the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 2006. "This is an unusually intelligently designed terminal... Even when the terminal is full it never feels oppressively crowded," says Frommer's.
This airport looks has been compared to a Moroccan palace, twenty-first century style, with classic Islamic geometric and nature motifs inscribed into a giant network of concrete diamonds. "You could make a strong argument that the whole thing is one giant artwork," says Frommer's in its review.
Praise is lavished on this airport, not least for its entertainment factor. "Seoul's secret is to make sure that you're never more than a few steps away from an entertaining, elightening or amusing bit of Korean culture," says Frommer's. Scattered throughout, you'll find hands-on Korean craft workshops, a dress-up area where you can take photos in traditional clothing, plus "the best free internet cafes you've ever seen, a museum, and plenty of places to take a comfortable nap."
Is this an airport or an amusement park? Home to a butterfly garden, an 18ft waterfall, a huge indoor playground, a movie theatre, TV lounges and a huge four-storey spiral slide "that's a lot more fun than taking the elevator," says Frommer's. There's even an outdoor swimming pool...
This rugged, artistically constructed airport terminal has also been named the world's ugliest - but it's all a matter of taste. Opened last year, the Rock's egg-shaped buildings covered in copper is designed to turn blue-green in the sea air. Says Frommer's: "Inside, curving corners and geometric panels play peekaboo." Very posh.
Montevideo's airport terminal, designed by Rafael Vinoly, is described by Frommer's as "a smooth dome, looking from the front a bit like a whale's mouth; inside, lines are smooth, clean and calm, with grand terraces overlooking the runways and arrival areas."
This airport is unique in many ways. For a start, it's only active diring the "hajj" - the pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims. During this period, it's one of the busiest airport terminals in the world. According to Architectural Record, it is made of 210 open-air white fibreglass tents which create a chimney effect that can cool the scorching desert air by 50 degrees without air conditioning. It received the American Institue of Architects 25-year award.