To conceal the real number of aircraft noise complaints, Gatwick now just records one per person per day
Gatwick Airport’s figures on noise complaints are no longer of much use, as they do not publicly report the full numbers. The airport changed the system to only record one complaint per person per day, no matter how many complaints about separate flights they may make. Gatwick says they have introduced this system because people can use phone Apps to make multiple complaints. Gatwick is being urged to record separately the number of people making complaints; the number of total complaints when only one-a-day is counted; and the total number of complaints (including number of planes). At the recent noise seminar held by Gatwick airport on 4th March, Tom Denton (Gatwick’s Head of Corporate Responsibility) said, when questioned about the decision by GAL to only record one complaint, per person, per day that this has been the case for the last “2 – 3 years”. The wording on the GAL website was changed, to show one complaint only per day, in August 2014. Tom Denton says – incorrectly – that this is the practice at other airports like Heathrow. Heathrow records “enquiries” (number of planes complained about), and “contacts” (number of complaint contacts/forms submitted), and “caller” (number of people). Every complaint, unless there are many on one form/email, is counted by Heathrow, even if several per day. But not by Gatwick – meaning complaint figures are not comparable. Gatwick’s are artificially low.
Too many complaints – solution, Gatwick Airport are to fiddle the figures!
8.3.2015 (GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
“For years residents have had to endure the frustration of an answerphone listening to their aircraft noise complaints, even Heathrow Airport have human beings answering the noise complaint lines, but now Gatwick have seized upon a new way of logging complaints: they will only record one a day,” said Brendon Sewill, GACC Chairman.
In 2013 Gatwick Airport introduced new flight paths. The result was a six-fold increase in the number of complaints, up from 2,696 to 16,910 in the latest twelve months.
So Gatwick has hit on an ingenious solution. If a person complains more than once a day -only count it as one complaint!
According to Brendon: “The new departure flight paths have been narrowed so that people underneath are suffering a constant stream of aircraft overhead. Some of the complaints which are copied to us are heart-rending. People who had chosen to live in a quiet rural location have suddenly found their peace shattered by a constant stream of whining aircraft overhead. Some are on the verge of despair. Others are having to contemplate moving house, suffering a loss of many thousands of pounds.”
“The constant roar of aircraft starts at 5.00 am and continues until 11.00 pm. Every aircraft that goes over is a source of annoyance. Yet people are to be ‘forbidden’ to complain more than once a day!”
Gatwick Airport say they are introducing the new system because some people have taken to using a phone App to automatically record a complaint about each aircraft. Yet the only quoted instance of that happening was at Heathrow.
Even if true, the answer should be to publish three sets of figures:
– the number of people making complaints (as published at present);
– the number on the one-a-day basis;
– and the total number of complaints.
But in fact the Gatwick excuse won’t wash. In the past year the number of people complaining has also risen six-fold, from 535 to 3,285, showing that the average number of complaints per head has not increased.
A few years ago Gatwick took an elderly lady to court for complaining too often, and the case was thrown out. Now they have found an easier solution: don’t reply to people who complain often, and keep the number of complaints secret.
But as Sewill added: “fiddling the figures will only make people more angry.”
Gatwick’s POLICY ON HANDLING AIRCRAFT NOISE COMPLAINTS
(as amended in August 2014)
Heathrow’s POLICY ON HANDLING AIRCRAFT NOISE COMPLAINTS
What are the true figures?
Below is the table of noise monitoring indicators, for the 3rd quarter of 2014. This slide was also shown at the Gatwick Airspace seminar for local residents, held on 4th March.
But what do the figures actually mean? When were they changed? How many complaints are no longer being recorded? Gatwick claims every complaint is still being logged – but just not put in to the official figures.
Gatwick Airport – Flight Performance Report – Q3 Data 2014
This table shows that the number of noise complaints per caller was:
– 8.1 in 2006
– 7.8 in 2011
…….. (then a change…)
– 5.0 in 2013
– 5.1 in 2014
Other Gatwick Airport Flight Performance Team publications here
By contrast, Heathrow records:
Complaints – Number of Enquiries
Complaints – Number of Contacts
Complaints – Number of Callers
[Caller = person (“A caller is a person who contacts the FEU (either through telephone, e-mail, written letter or website).”)
Contact = number of times (“A contact is the number of times that a caller contacts the FEU (Flight Evaluation Unit).”)
Enquiries = number of issues (“An enquiry is number of issues reported by the caller during a single contact”) ie. how many flights a caller complains about in one complaint form ]
From Heathrow glossary ….
Heathrow Airport’s website on noise complaints states:
“All complaints made by email or through our online webform, will automatically receive a complaint reference number. The reference number will be sent automatically via email. All complaints by phone, voicemail, or letter will be registered and a complaint reference number will be provided on request.
“Where complaints are made about multiple aircraft events within one email or webform, only one complaint reference will be provided and this will be recorded as one complaint. Complaints about separate aircraft events should be made using separate emails or webforms if residents wish these to be recorded as multiple complaints.”
“All complaints made to the Community Relations team are reported daily on our Heathrow operational data website (see www.heathrowoperationaldata.com); in the airport’s quarterly Flight Performance Reports (available at Heathrow.com/noise); and to the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (www.hacc.org.uk).”
However, as with Gatwick, it is not made clear whether the number of callers regards one person who complains once during a year/quarter, and one person who complains 50 times over that period, as equally being “one person.”
Heathrow Airport’s Cheryl Monk (Head of Community Relations and Policy) has said:
“We count every complaint now that we have better software. Previously we had a policy that only applied to a handful of people who made hundreds of complaints a day and because they had to be manually logged, we had a policy whereby we recorded one complaint for every day they complained. Now we count every single email, webform, phonecall or voicemail regardless of how many they send each day. This is the link to our complaints policy.
“The relevant bit is this
Complaint reference numbers
“All complaints made by email or through our online webform, will be recorded and a complaint reference number will be sent automatically via email. All complaints by phone, voicemail, or letter will be recorded and a complaint reference number will be provided on request.
“Where complaints are made about multiple aircraft events within one email or webform, only one complaint will be recorded. Complaints about separate aircraft events should be made using separate emails or webforms if residents wish these to be recorded as multiple complaints.”