Belgium’s mobility minister, Georges Gilkinet, has put forward a proposal to reduce noise pollution caused by air traffic at Brussels Airport by around 20 percent starting in October 2024. The draft ministerial decree, which was presented during inter-cabinet consultations on July 14, is based on adjusting the existing quota count (QC) system that governs the maximum noise level for each aircraft type taking off and landing at Brussels Airport.
The biggest proposed change is that no aircraft noise would be permitted between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time for either landings and takeoffs. In addition to the night curfew, the average noise level would be reduced by 30 percent between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 20 percent between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., and 7 percent between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. There would be different QCs for weekdays and on Sundays and public holidays, during which the oldest and noisiest types of aircraft would not be allowed to operate.
Unlike the flight-reduction proposal announced by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in April, Gilkinet’s proposal does not envision a specific ban on business aircraft. Nonetheless, the industry would be impacted by the new rules, if enacted. With 10,494 aircraft movements in 2022, Brussels Airport ranks as Belgium’s busiest airport for business aviation, according to data collected by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA).
In a statement to AIN, Brussels-based EBAA said it was “closely following” the recent proposals from Gilkinet. “We understand that these new proposals might significantly impact the business aviation sector and, therefore, we are committed to continuously monitoring the situation,” noted EBAA senior communications manager Roman Kok. “Our main objective is to foster a positive dialogue with all stakeholders and contribute to policy decisions that support a sustainable and thriving business aviation industry in Belgium and across Europe. We encourage the Belgian authorities to ensure a well-balanced and inclusive approach, considering the vital role of business aviation in the country’s economy and its connectivity.”
Last month, Gilkinet, who is a member of Belgium’s French-speaking green political party, Ecolo, revealed that he intends to introduce legislation prohibiting flights between two Belgian airports. These short hops “are often by private jets, and sometimes [they are] empty…A nonsense,” he said on Twitter.
EBAA data shows that there were fewer than 3,000 business and general aviation flights between Belgian airports last year, accounting for 9.2 percent of total business aviation flights in the country. Of this, only 56.5 percent were commercial flights.
Commenting on his proposal to reduce noise caused by air traffic around Brussels airport, Gilkinet said, “I do this in the general interest of all local residents regardless of whether they are Flemish, Brussels, or Walloon, and with respect for the economic interests of the airport and the 65,000 people who work there.” He noted that the airport’s QC standards have not been revised since 2009.
The draft decree, however, promptly drew fierce criticism from unions, the airport, airlines, and other political parties, including government coalition partners Open VLD and CD&V, whose chairman, Sammy Mahdi, described the night flight ban plan as “green madness and degrowth in practice.” This casts doubt on whether it will be adopted before the parliamentary elections in Belgium and the European Union in June next year.