Brussels starts handing out fines for aircraft noise


Despite another conflict of interest complaint filed by the Flemish Community, the Brussels government says it will begin fining airlines from breaching its new aircraft noise regulations


The debate on aircraft noise over the Brussels-Capital Region continued this week, as Brussels went ahead to impose fines on airlines exceeding the strict, new limits in defiance of a conflict of interest claim filed by the Flemish Community.

A conflict of interest may be filed by one government when the actions of another have an effect on its region’s interests. In this case, because aircraft taking off from and landing at Brussels Airport in Zaventem have to change their routes to avoid passing over Brussels, the burden of noise nuisance falls on the municipalities in the Flemish periphery of the capital.

Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts filed an initial conflict complaint at the end of last year, which froze the introduction of the new limits for 60 days. As that term has now expired with no agreement reached, the Flemish Community filed a new complaint.

Brussels said it was not ready to observe another 60-day delay and that it would administer fines, though it would not, for the time being, make the airlines pay. The fines are likely to apply to about 8% of the flights taking off from runway 25R, the busiest at the airport (pictured). That would affect about 7,200 of the runway’s 90,000 flights a year.

But that figure is an average for the whole day. The crucial hour is between 6.00 and 7.00; noise limits on night flights used to end at 6.00 but, under the new noise limit rules, last until 7.00. During that hour, according to Weyts, 39% of flights taking off from the runway could be liable for fines.

The next step is not clear, according to constitutional experts. For Brussels to ignore a conflict of interest complaint does not change the fact that the new limits are legally suspended, but it will be up to the airlines to fight against any attempt to make them pay fines.

Photo: Lucash/Wikimedia