The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has publicly opposed Belgium’s plan to ban night flights at Brussels Airport (BRU).
“The noise concerns of the community around Brussels airport must be heard, but it is profoundly unfortunate that Minister Gilkinet has attempted to circumvent the Balanced Approach, which is the long-accepted and successful international process for managing airport noise impacts,” Rafael Schvartzman, Regional Vice President for Europe at IATA, said.
According to the association, the new proposal, put forth by Belgium’s Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet, is “premature” and “ignores Belgium’s international obligations under the Balanced Approach to noise, including bilateral air service agreements and which is also enshrined in EU law”.
“Everyone has the right to quiet nights,” Gilkinet said. “It is this quality of life that I am determined to defend, while guaranteeing an economically sustainable operation at the airport.” His proposal would introduce a curfew from 11 PM to 6 AM and aim to reduce noise by 30% between 9 PM to 11 PM, by 20% from 6 AM to 7 AM, and by 7% from 7 AM to PM.
“This will be a significant gain in terms of quality of life and public health for more than 1.1 million Belgians in the three Regions,” Gilkinet added, as cited by Radio-télévision belge de la Communauté française (RTBF, Belgian Radio-television of the French Community). Belgium’s three regions are Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.
IATA pointed out that per the Balanced Approach, flight restrictions must be used as a last resort, done only “after a detailed consultation and cost-benefit analysis, and when the noise benefits to be gained from other possible measures of the Balanced Approach have been exhausted”.
“The Balanced Approach specifically helps to mitigate noise while protecting the benefits of air connectivity for the economy and community both near the airport and across Belgium as a whole, not least in terms of thousands of jobs,” Schvartzman added.
In June 2023, Gilkinet also proposed banning domestic flights within Belgium, citing environmental concerns.
The Belgian minister has followed a similar model used at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS), where the government imposed a cap upon annual flight movements, which was upheld by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal in July 2023.
“We also urge the European Commission to defend its laws and air service agreements,” Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA, said at the time. “And most importantly, we continue to ask the Dutch government to revert to the Balanced Approach which is the most effective and only internationally accepted means of dealing with the noise concerns of the local community.”