The management of Brussels Airport (BRU) has decided to introduce a tariff structure based on progressive environmental standards. From APR23, noisy aircraft in particular will have to pay up to 20 times more than the quietest jetliners operating at BRU. The fees will also take into account the aircraft’s nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
With the new, significantly stiffer and costlier landing charges structure, Brussels places itself at the forefront of European airports aiming to abolish dirty and noisy aircraft. The management’s decision is in line with market terms, and introduces a regulatory measure.
The environment and residents benefit from the new fee scheme
In the EU airport landscape, it is an initiative that is second to none, emphasizes BRU spokesperson Ihsane Chioua Lekhli: “Brussels Airport plays a pioneering role in Europe by further encouraging the use of modern, environmentally friendly aircraft that produce less noise and emit less NOx. It is our belief that the aviation industry - as many industries - plays an important role in transforming towards a more sustainable future and - albeit our pioneering role - Brussels Airport encourages a level playing field for all airports in Belgium and the overall community in Western Europe when it comes to overcoming our common industry challenge to achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2050.”
In this context, the management refers to the results of the pricing policy already in place. It rewards airlines for the use of modern and thus eco-efficient aircraft. Since the introduction of a larger environmental component in the charges in 2016 (factor 3), the proportion of flights operated by aircraft in the loudest categories at Brussels Airport has become three times less, reaching a record low share of 5% of the total amount of flights, a press release reveals.
Pricing policy takes effect
Since 2016, airlines operating the quietest jetliners to/from Brussels have been paying just a third of what carriers landing with the loudest aircraft at Zaventem International are billed. In the new rate structure, this environmental component has been strengthened, so that the loudest, most polluting aircraft pay up to 20 times more than the quietest, most modern aircraft. In addition, for the first time, NOx, a measure of nitrogen oxide emissions, is also considered in the tariffs. Consequently, those carriers that emit less NOx also pay less.
Aircraft fall into one of three international levels of noise categories. At BRU, the share of flights operated by aircraft in the loudest category has decreased from 16% in 2016 to only 5% in 2022. In contrast, the share of aircraft belonging to the quietest level has increased from 20% in 2016 to 31% in 2022. This means that today almost 1 in 3 flights is already operated with the most modern aircraft. With its new fare scheme, valid for the next five years, from 01APR23 to 31MAR28, Brussels Airport wants to give air carriers an even greater incentive to further invest in the modernization of their fleet.
Others will follow suit
However, given the geographic proximity of other airports (Schiphol, Maastricht, Dusseldorf, Liege, etc.), is there not a risk that traffic will migrate from BRU to avoid the fee hike and continue to operate noisier and older (dirtier) aircraft, we asked Ihsane? “In the short term, there’s a limited risk that traffic will migrate from BRU, as other airports face similar challenges and may be having to introduce similar measures soon or be confronted with challenges when it comes to imposed operational restrictions.”
And what about freight carriers that tend to operate aircraft which do not necessarily belong to the latest models, particularly when it comes to charter traffic? “Brussels Airports sees few impacts on the cargo operations when compared to other airports as the majority of its customer base, facing the same challenges and reality, have been or are actively replacing their aging fleet and will be deploying the most modern aircraft available on the market in the years to come,” the spokesperson says.
France subsidizes promising low-carbon aircraft projects
Over in France, the government decided to subsidize the decarbonization of air transport by granting promising industrial projects up to 435 million euros annually from 2023 onwards. This should “make it possible to achieve the goal to introduce a first low-carbon aircraft in France in 2030, and allow the industry to further accelerate the research and technology projects that are essential for decarbonization,” Deputy Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, stated in a report published by the French online portal, Air Journal.
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