The Belgian Federal Minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet wants to introduce measures to reduce noise at Brussels Airport by 20%, and even by 100% during the night. The airport community is far from pleased.
Mr Gilkinet, a member of the Walloon green party, Ecolo, says he wants to cut down the noise pollution for all residents as well as guarantee a sustainable future for the airport. According to him, this issue has been lingering for much too long as the noise standards for the airport have not changed since 2009. Over the last few years, the federal government has been fined more than 25 million euros for the violation of these standards.
According to Mr Gilkinet’s proposal, noise reduction would be around 20% between 06:00 and 07:00, 7% between 07:00 and 21:00, 30% between 21:00 and 23:00, and 100% between 23:00 and 06:00. Older and noisier aircraft would no longer be welcome at the airport in the morning, in the evening, and at weekends. The aircraft types affected would be the A330, A320, B737, B767 and B747. This means that the measures would particularly impact cargo and leisure operations.
In an immediate reaction to the news, Brussels Airport Company (BAC) said that: “Brussels Airport is an essential gateway to the world for citizens, businesses, and countless institutions. The airport is the second growth engine in Belgium, providing direct and indirect employment to 64,000 people, and accounting for 2% of the GDP. Brussels Airport regrets that the federal Minister of Transport is now launching a far-reaching proposal with unprecedented negative consequences on employment, connectivity, exports, and the economy in Belgium. This was done without any concertation or alignment with the airport or the aviation industry. The European procedure to impose operating restrictions is also not respected at all.”
As for the latter, BAC may well have a point as the proposal may be in the same predicament as the noise reduction scheme put forward by the Dutch government concerning Schiphol. The European legislation is based on the ‘balanced approach’ concept, stating that noise reduction cannot be achieved by just capping capacity. It must first be demonstrated that all other options have been tried and proven to be unworkable.
BAC also points out that it is heavily investing in making its operations more sustainable by attracting quieter aircraft through differentiated charges, working on more efficient flight procedures, and entirely eliminating its own carbon emissions. “The many initiatives taken have already led to a sharp reduction in nuisance. In the coming years, we will ambitiously continue to reduce the impact of the airport operations, together with our partners in the industry.”
Night flight ban: No Way!
On Belgium’s official TV Channel, VRT, DHL Express spokesman, Lorenzo Van de Pol agrees that this approach with ‘balloons and loose proposals’ runs counter to the European policy framework.
Managing Director, Hans Maertens of the Flemish employers’ organization VOKA, says that ‘in no way night operations can be banned.’ He has called for the coalition partners in the federal government, most of which have already shot down Mr Gilkinet’s proposal, to voice their disapproval loudly and clearly.
Given the animosity within Belgium’s byzantine political framework, Mr Maertens even suspects Mr Gilkinet of trying to favor the development of the Walloon airports of Charleroi and Liège, overlooking the fact that the Walloon government, too, has reined in the operations of LGG (read more).
Effective from late 2024
Mr Gilkinet wants to introduce his plans by ministerial decree, which needs the approval of the government, but not of the parliament. Given the opposition within the coalition, chances are small that he will succeed in passing his proposals.
Another point is that Mr Gilkinet would like the measures to take effect as from OCT24. By that time, Belgium will have been through its general election and, hopefully, be under a new government. It remains to be seen if Mr Gilkinet’s party will still be part of it.
Generally speaking, it seems that, after Frankfurt and Amsterdam, the ‘not-in-my-backyard’ (NIMBY) syndrome has also reached Brussels Airport, even if most of these backyards were not even landscaped when the airport opened in 1958.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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