Government rejects plea to ban night flights amid noise complaints

Calls for a ban on night flights at airports have been rejected by the Government.

Existing limits on night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be preserved until at least October 2024 under new Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.

Seventeen organisations covering airports such as Bristol, East Midlands, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow and Southampton wrote to aviation minister Robert Courts last month demanding that take-offs and landings are banned for eight hours every night.

The DfT, which is consulting on the plans, said night flights are “an important contributor” to the economic benefits provided by the aviation sector.

But it also acknowledged that noise from night flights “is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations”.

Responding to the consultation launch, John Stewart, who chairs anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “The Government should take this opportunity not to tinker around with night flight restrictions but to ask the more basic question of how many of the night flights are really needed.

“No night flights is what most communities want. The Government should have that as its target.”

The DfT consultation document stated: “Maintaining the existing restrictions for an interim period will provide time for complete consideration of the longer-term options for managing aviation noise at night at the designated airports.

“It will also provide time for the impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry to be better understood and for evidence to emerge that can support longer-term policy changes.”

Heathrow is currently allowed an average of 16 flights every night between 11.30pm and 6am.

The limit at Gatwick and Stansted is 40 and 38 respectively.

The only planned change in night flights from October 2022 is to prohibit the use of aircraft with noise levels similar to the Boeing 747-400 between 11.30pm and 6am.

These type of planes have been grounded by several airlines due to the lack of demand for air travel.

Launched in 1969, the hump-shaped 747s are considerably larger and louder than modern airliners.

The DfT said: “We believe the impacts to the industry of this ban will be minimal, but it will have a benefit to communities that are overflown by ensuring these noisiest aircraft movements are prevented from operating in the night quota period in future.”

The department is also asking for views on night flights both beyond 2024 and at airports across the country.