In yet another development over the never-ending problem of noise pollution around Brussels Airport, the Belgian State has been found guilty of misusing one of the airport’s runways, leading to unnecessary nuisance for the residents of the neighbouring municipalities.
According to international standards, Runway 01 at Brussels Airport, which is shorter than others, under specific weather conditions, but a court found that the state allows its use on a regular basis, leading to increased noise around the airport. Thus, 1,400 residents from the neighbouring municipalities of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Kraainem, Sterrebeek and Wezembeek-Oppem have been awarded €6 million in damages, while the State must also pay €20,000 daily fines until the situation is resolved.
Earlier this year, Belgian newspaper De Standaard revealed that the State has been paying over €25 million to residents around Brussels Airport in complaints over noise pollution dating back to 2020. Five Flemish municipalities (Grimbergen, Machelen, Meise, Vilvoorde and Wemmel) have received €3.2 million, at a rate of €50,000 a week since May 2021, after a court upheld their complaints about aircraft noise. Since 2019, Brussels Region has been handed €13 million, thanks to another legal case. And 313 residents to the east of Brussels have been given €9.5 million after a 2020 court ruling over the airport’s runway configuration and wind standards.
Research published recently in Environment International indicates that people living near airports may be slightly more susceptible to heart attacks and related issues, with men aged over 65 worst hit, especially by night flights. The Flemish Federation for a Better Environment (Bond Beter Leefmilieu) has estimated that as many as 220,000 people around the capital could be affected by the issue.
In response to the piling complaints, in July, Belgian Federal Minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, presented a proposal to ban all night flights at Brussels Airport, in an attempt to reduce noise pollution from the airport by 20%. The ban has been opposed by multiple players in the industry, including by IATA, and remains, to the moment, unfulfilled.
In the meantime, Brussels Airport itself plans to increase the strictness of which flights are allowed to take-off and land during the night slots, between 11 pm and 6 am. While 16,000 flights per year are allocated night slots, if a flight outside this timeframe gets delayed for a valid reason, it is still allowed to arrive or depart during the night interval even if it was not allocated a night slot. The airport expects that no longer allowing the latter to take-off or land at night will reduce night flights by about 10% since between 1,500 and 1,600 flights per year use night slots without actually being allocated one. Moreover, since 1 April, the airport is charging old and noisier aircraft up to 20 times more than more modern, efficient and quitter planes.