On Friday July 14th, Belgian Federal minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, presented a draft ministerial decree in inter-cabinet consultations to limit noise pollution for residents living near Brussels Airport, as reported by Belga news agency. The day before, Gilkinet announced in the Belgian Federal Parliament that the document would be filed by July 21st. The proposal aims to modernize the system of “quota counts” (QC), which regulates the maximum noise level for each plane taking off and landing. Those standards have not been revised since 2009.
Gilkinet wants to reduce noise pollution by 20 percent. In practical terms, this would mean that between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am, no noise coming from the airport is to be allowed. There must also be 30 percent more silence in the evening from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm, 20 percent more silence in the morning between 6:00 and 7:00 am, and 7 percent more silence during the day from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. The new QC are also different for weekdays, Sundays and holidays. “This dossier on Brussels Airport has been deadlocked for far too long because no consensus solution could be found between the various parties involved,” Gilkinet said.
Old and noisy aircraft are no longer allowed to take off and land at any time. These include the oldest versions of the Airbus A330, the Airbus A320, the Boeing 737, the Boeing 767 and the Boeing 747, among others. Exceptions apply to government or military flights, and to police and emergency missions or flights for meteorological reasons. During the day, all new-generation aircraft and almost all generations of medium-range aircraft can fly as normal.
This dossier on Brussels Airport has been deadlocked for far too long.Georges Gilkinet, Belgian Federal minister for Mobility
The management of Brussels Airlines remained skeptical about Gilkinet’s approach. “When it comes to an airport, there are always competing interests,” said Brussels Airlines CEO, Dorothea von Boxberg, as quoted by Belgian news outlet Le Vif. “From our point of view, the airport is a factor of prosperity: it creates a lot of jobs, ensures many connections, brings in people who want to work here, and so on. We have to take that into account too.”
Von Boxberg said she understood the position of local residents, who had to endure the annoyance for an extended period of time and without any solution offered so far. She conceded she was not opposed to longer-term measures. “It would certainly be a reasonable and achievable goal to say that there should be a reduction in noise year after year,” she said. “It’s the all-to-nothing approach that makes the proposal very difficult.” Brussels Airlines is expected to receive five brand-new Airbus A320neo aircraft by the end of 2024, replacing the older A319s and A320s.
According to the Flemish party Open VLD, more than 13,000 direct and indirect jobs could be risk, including 1,600 at DHL. For its part, Brussels Airport has also said that it views the new plan as short-sighted, having a serious impact on the operation of several stakeholders. “What is really needed is a global solution and a coherent legal framework that provides stability and legal certainty for the sustainable development of the airport, with respect for the environment,” the airport stated via a press release. “This can only be achieved in close consultation with the competent authorities, the airport, the airlines and the industry.”
Meanwhile, residents’ groups and the local organization Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL) have vehemently expressed their support toward to minister Gilkinet’s proposal. “A milestone for the health of the residents,” the group said. “A nice first step towards sustainable and future-oriented management of our national airport”.
A study by the Flemish Federation for a Better Environment (Bond Beter Leefmilieu) found that noise pollution around Brussels Airport is affecting 220,000 people, 109,000 having their sleep seriously disturbed. Each night flight could have an impact of roughly 36,000 euros in health damage, according to Belga news agency.