Night flight policy still under review as new consultation on noise objectives launches.

  • government to consult on the impact of night flights at some of the busiest airports to ensure the negative impacts do not outweigh the positive benefits they bring
  • consultation will seek views on noise objectives relating to night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted
  • guidance on the night flight dispensation process will also be reviewed, considering the increased usage of dispensations in summer 2022

The government is continuing its review of night flight policy with a new consultation on the noise objectives for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports.

The review will ensure that aircraft operations at those airports are managed, so that the negative impacts of night flying on local residents do not outweigh the positive benefits they bring to the wider economy.

Aircraft are becoming quieter as technology advances and we expect this trend to continue. However, the government recognises that noise from aircraft taking off and landing at night is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations.

Aviation minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said:

There’s no doubt night flights have an effect on local residents underneath busy flightpaths, but as aircraft become quieter, we have an opportunity to strike a balance to make sure we can support the aviation industry without having a debilitating impact on people’s lives.

This consultation will help us to shape policy and create a flightpath towards a more sustainable approach to night-time aviation noise.

Night flights are an important part of operations at airports around the world and provide significant economic benefit to the UK, helping keep the flow of people, goods and services moving in and out of the country and supporting thousands of jobs as a result.

The 6-week consultation on night-time noise abatement objectives will allow the government to seek views and evidence from the industry and communities.

The objectives informed by the consultation will set the groundwork for future measures on how to manage aviation noise at night at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports from October 2025.

Also published today (27 March 2023) is the government’s revised overarching aviation noise policy statement, reaffirming the foundation for noise policy for the entirety of the aviation sector, no matter the time of the flight, whether it’s day or night. Through this statement, we aim to balance the health and wellbeing of communities with the clear economic and consumer benefits of aviation.

In addition, the guidance used to allow dispensation for operators to fly night flights will be looked at in the wake of last summer’s disruption across the sector. The summer of 2022, was particularly challenging from an international air traffic control perspective and resulted in an increase in late-running flights and a corresponding higher number of night flight dispensations. Such a rise was in stark contrast to the summers of 2020 and 2021, when the numbers of dispensations were very low.

Given the number of night flight dispensations allowed during the early part of last summer, it’s vital to take this additional evidence into account before publishing any revision to our night flight dispensation guidance. Updating the dispensation guidance will form part of the main night flight regime consultation, which we aim to publish in late 2023.

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Published 27 March 2023