Court closes air routes over Brussels to night flights


In a decision lamented by Flanders but hailed by the capital, night flights over three air routes will be banned starting at the end of the year

6,600 flights affected

A court in Brussels has ordered the cessation of three flight routes above Brussels between 23.00 and 7.00 because aircraft are in breach of noise levels. The decision concerns the Canal Route and the Ring Route, as well as the approach route to runway 01 at Brussels Airport. A request to have the Canal Route shut down entirely was turned down.

The three routes saw about 6,600 total flights in 2016, according to the airport’s ombudsman service. That represents about 3% of the total aircraft movements from Zaventem.

The court also ordered the Belgian state to finance and carry out a study into noise nuisance caused by operations at Brussels Airport, and into possible alternatives. 

The main ruling does not come into immediate effect: The state has four months to adapt the use of runways in order to meet the terms of the ruling and to communicate its findings to the Brussels-Capital Region. 

“Apparently some people will only be happy when Brussels can reap the benefits of the airport without any of the disadvantages,” said Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts. “It’s a riddle to me why people even talk about the airport as Brussels National. I hope this latest in a long line of judgements can finally lead to a law on flight routes.” 

For Brussels mobility minister Céline Fremault, however, the ruling is “a collective victory – for the region, for the 19 municipalities and for the association of neighbourhood residents who mobilised along with us”.

Two of the municipalities most concerned – Schaarbeek in Brussels and Zaventem itself – welcomed the ruling. “Good news for the people of Schaarbeek and for everyone in the region,” said mayor Bernard Clerfayt. Schaarbeek and neighbouring Evere have long been the source of most of the complaints regarding noise nuisance. 

Two neighbourhood committees in Zaventem said in a statement that they were pleased an end had come to the “complete misuse of runway 01, where 80% of night-time landings are in breach of Brussels noise limits”. But the ruling does not go far enough, they said: This is only the latest in a series of judicial rulings that have until now been ignored by the government and by Belgocontrol, they said.

Photo: Tom D’haenens/Brussels Airport