BELGIUM: Plan to ban night flights is quashed

A surprise plan to ban night flights at Brussel's Zaventem airport has been jettisoned. Belgium's Prime Minister has removed decision-making power for the plan from the Transport Minister.


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On 31 December 1999, Isabelle Durant – leader of Belgium’s francophone green party, Ecolo, and new to her position as Transport Minister – issued a Ministerial Decree stating that night flights at Zaventem would be banned from 2003 and that additional noise quotas would be instituted for late evening and early morning (see related story). The move caught industry, specifically large courier companies, by surprise.

The recent climbdown and removal of Durant as sole decision maker has improved relations with DHL, the giant courier company that uses Zaventem as its European base and employs almost 2,200 workers. The company had stated that if the anti-noise plans went ahead it would be left with no choice but to contemplate relocation.

Zaventem is Europe’s fastest growing airport, with cargo the primary growth area. Courier companies insist that night flights are necessary in order to meet with customer demands for early morning, next-day delivery. DHL is keen to emphasise its efforts to reduce noise through the purchase of quieter aircraft, changes to runway usage, plans to move some of its deliveries to other European airports, and increasing its use of road transport. The company also argues that improved protection for residents close to the airport – in the form of insulating barriers and improved land use planning – should be a priority for public authorities.

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