International Air Association Plans Legal Challenge to British Government's Plan to Cut Noise Levels at London Airports

FEBRUARY 11, 1998

The Travel Trade Gazette UK & Ireland (page 18) reports that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is preparing a legal challenge against the British government's proposal to cut noise levels at London's Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted airports. Meanwhile, airline executives are saying that Heathrow airport could lose its spot as Europe's most important airport if the government's noise rules are implemented.

According to the article, IATA director William Gaillard said the result of the noise restrictions could be higher fares, the end of many direct long-haul services from the UK, the loss of thousands of jobs, and a severe blow to the UK travel industry. Gaillard said, "We would not be able to fly a fully-loaded 747-400 direct from London to Hong Kong. It could only fly two-thirds full or else load up with fuel at a continental airport. That will be another nail in Heathrow's coffin. Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle, or Frankfurt would become London's long-haul airport."

The article notes that the restrictions were first proposed two years ago, but were dropped after a judicial review brought by IATA last January. Currently, the government has drawn up a consultation paper to re-examine noise limits. In addition, the IATA is working on a legal challenge to the restrictions.

Meanwhile, the article reports, a spokesperson for British Airways said, "The intention of the Government is to ensure that people do not suffer noise pollution and that is entirely understandable. But these levels are simply not achievable." The spokesperson said most British Airways flights would not be affected because the airline uses mostly quieter 747-400 aircraft, but other airlines might move their operations to other airports. He said, "If you cannot operate economically from airport X, you look at the possibility of going to airport Y."