A low-emission zone should be implemented around Brussels Airport in Zaventem to ban the loudest and most polluting aircraft above the Capital Region, similar to how some vehicles can no longer enter the cities, according to Federal Air Traffic Ombudsperson Philippe Touwaide.
In the first half of 2022, Touwaide identified 184 noise infringements for aircraft taking off – more than in the whole of 2021 when a total of 160 infringements were recorded, he said in an interview with De Morgen.
"There are many flights, but there are fewer staff members than before. That leads to delays at several airports, including at Brussels Airport," Touwaide said. "It concerns flights that are due to depart during the daytime, for example, but only end up leaving at night because of those delays."
Aircraft are not allowed to take off at night (between 23:00 and 06:00) or during the three so-called 'silent nights' between Friday and Monday.
The dustbin of other airports
Still, there are more infringements in Zaventem than at airports in neighbouring countries, because the rules and controls in Brussels are much less strict. "Other airports take measures, and so airlines send their loud and polluting aircraft that are banned elsewhere to Brussels. But Brussels cannot be the dustbin of the other airports."
The creation of a low-emission zone for Brussels Airport would finally tackle the problem of noise standards over Brussels, according to Touwaide.
"For 50 years there has been discussion about adjusting flight paths, but we would do better to look at the type of aircraft and choose less noisy or polluting ones," he said. "Take, for example, a Boeing 747 cargo plane that is still allowed to take off from Brussels Airport at 23:00. That would no longer be allowed."
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Meanwhile, Brussels Airport is making airlines pay extra airport taxes for their noisy or polluting aircraft: they already pay up to three times higher airport tariffs, but this could become up to 20 times more, if a new proposal is implemented.
"We do notice an effect of these taxes," spokesperson Ihsane Chioua Lekhli told VRT. "Airlines are using these aircraft less and less, but you cannot expect them to completely renew their fleets within five years. They just cannot."