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Brussels-City wants to ban night flights from its skies

19:57 18/01/2023

Brussels city council has adopted a motion to ban overnight flights that pass over the Belgian capital in an effort to reduce noise pollution.

The ban would apply to flights that pass over the city en route to Brussels Airport between 22.00 and 7.00, but requires the approval of the federal government.

The motion was spearheaded by Didier Wauters (Les Engagés-CD&V) and entails setting an annual limit on the number of flight movements at the airport, taking into account health, environmental and economic concerns.

It would also ban specific types of aircraft whose noise emissions exceed certain thresholds, generally due to their model or age.

There are also provisions for avoiding flying over densely populated areas – wind standards permitting – and a request for compliance with a 1999 decree on noise pollution.

The ambitious motion calls for the establishment of an independent authority to ensure compliance with various standards, including through the use of sanctions and enforceable court decisions instead of just penalty payments.

Exceptions are included for emergency situations as defined by law.

Considering Brussels Airport is one of the most important airports in Europe, servicing 19 million passengers and 200 direct destinations in 2022 (when pandemic-related measures were still depressing travel figures), such a measure seems unlikely to be approved by the federal government.

As a common connecting airport for cross-continental flights, planes could be landing during the night, in theory, due to time zone differences. For some flights to avoid arriving within the suggested banned timeframe, they would have to depart their origin country in the middle of the night or at an otherwise impractical time for travellers.

Brussels Airport is not just a major hub for commercial flights, but also cargo ones: 776,000 tonnes of freight passed through the airport last year alone.

Brussels Airport is also arguably the most important pharmaceutical hub in all of Europe, with the largest surface area of temperature-controlled warehouses, which made it a key player in vaccine delivery.

Written by Helen Lyons