This is a surprising advance: The government of the Belgian province of Walloon has set up several hurdles to the further development of Liège Airport (LGG). If the stop signals are not turned off, it would be a U-turn in the French-speaking Belgian province’s air transport policies, after decades of almost unconditional support for the airport.
And this has led to controversy between the airport management and the provincial government: Liège Airport had asked the Walloon authorities to approve a request to increase the annual number of aircraft movements from currently 50,000 (34+ tons / 19+ seats) to 70,000; an increase of 40%. Once authorized, today’s clients such as the Challenge Group, Ethiopian Cargo, or ASL Airlines Belgium, to name but a few, would get long-term operational security combined with further traffic growth prospects for the airport. Ideally, it also would attract new freight carriers and integrators looking to select Liège as their cargo airport of choice.
A new wind blows from Namur
Surprisingly, this application has been turned down by the Namur-based provincial government. Moreover, the politicians decreed that, as of 2024, a noise quota for night flights must be introduced, protecting the neighborhood from noise pollution increasing by 5% year after year.
“These limitations will have a considerable impact on activity and employment, and jeopardize the viability of the airport,” states highly alarmed Communications Officer, Christian Delcourt of Liège Airport, in a reaction delivered to CargoForwarder Global.
LGG will challenge the political decision
The manager admits that there are air traffic limitations everywhere in Europe “and there will be ones at LGG also one day.” But at the same time, he announces that “our board has decided to appeal because the operating conditions include limitations at all critical points,” which threaten the business and would cost jobs. He expects the provincial government to decide the appeal by the end of this year.
Besides these critical points, there are also positive signals coming from Namur: Any night flight limitations have been shelved, allowing LGG to continue operating 07/12/365. This includes aging aircraft such as the MD-11F that will not be banned from the Walloon skies on account of its noise emissions. Further to this, a new environment permit was approved, valid for the next 20 years. “That’s very good news,” reasons Mr. Delcourt, because it increases planning reliability and protects against political volatility.
New parameters move to the fore
Despite these encouraging points, however, the signals sent from Namur show that similar rules of the game will apply to Liège in the future as they do to most European airports. This signals an end to the special development that management has successfully pursued to position the airport on the map of international air freight. Growth alone is no longer the ultimate criterion. Instead, environmental protection, noise emissions, and other parameters will come more to the fore, and LGG will have to be measured against them.
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