On Friday July 21st, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced its opposition to a proposed ban on night flights at Brussels Airport. IATA sees the proposal as premature because it risks, according to the association, ignoring Belgium’s international obligations under the Balanced Approach to noise, including bilateral air service agreements and which is also enshrined in EU law.
The Balanced Approach states that flight restrictions should be applied as a last resort, only after a detailed consultation and cost-benefit analysis, and when the noise benefits to be gained from other possible measures of the Balanced Approach have been exhausted.
It is vital that the government engage in a meaningful consultation with stakeholders.Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.
IATA’s strong reaction was triggered after Belgian Federal minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, presented on July 14th 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, he 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.
IATA is concerned about the economical side effects Gilkinet’s proposal might cause as many of the night flights are cargo flights. According to the association, Belgium is strong in pharmaceutical exports which rely on air transport for rapid, time-and-temperature controlled shipment. Among the routes that would be threatened by a ban are connections to Africa.
“The noise concerns of the community around Brussels Airport must be heard,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe. “But it is unfortunate that Minister Gilkinet has attempted to circumvent the Balanced Approach, which is the long-accepted and successful international process for managing airport noise impacts. The Balanced Approach specifically helps to mitigate noise while protecting the benefits of air connectivity for the economy and community both near the airport and across Belgium as a whole, not least in terms of thousands of jobs.”