The Frankfurt campaigners have won a partial night flight ban at Frankfurt in the teeth of opposition from the airlines and the regional government. The local government had allowed 17 flights per night between 11pm and 5am. Local campaigners say the High Court has now ruled that there is a ban on all flights between 11pm and 5am. The number of hours of the ban is similar to the one that operates, in theory, at Heathrow (11.30 – 4.30) but it is a significant achievement for the campaigners. There can still be a total of 133 flights over the full period of 10pm to 6am – so during the periods of 10 – 11pm and 5 – 6am. The campaigners at Frankfurt say: “This Frankfurt decision will encourage you all at Paris, London and Amsterdam, but as well at Madrid, Barcelona and other airports of Europe. Frankfurt will be the first big Hub having a night flight restrictions!”
Fraport May Lose Night-Flights Effort, German Court Says
Fraport AG (FRA) and the state of Hesse may lose their bid to operate 17 night flights on a new Frankfurt runway, a judge said at a hearing today because of concern from local residents.
The plan for 17 flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. at the hub’s new north-west runway may violate residents’ rights to noise protection, Presiding Judge Ruediger Rubel said in a preliminary assessment at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. The law requires a heightened demand for express freight to justify night flights, he said.
“The trial court found that the numbers didn’t show that there was such a heightened demand for express freight flights,” said Rubel. “We would be bound by those findings.”
The runway and night flights are being challenged by local residents, neighboring cities and businesses. The state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, in 2007 approved Fraport’s plan to build an additional runway and a third terminal, enabling Europe’s No. 3 airport to handle more flights. The state allowed an average of 150 night flights while capping the number between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. at 17.
While allowing the runway to be completed and used, a lower court in October temporarily blocked flights between those hours because it said the residents were likely to prevail on that part of their case.
Volker Gronefeld, a lawyer for Hesse, said the top court should overrule the trial court, because the findings weren’t convincing. While the trial court recognized in principal that there is a demand for night flights, it required too high a threshold to approve them, he said.
The court may also require changes to Fraport’s operation of an average of 150 flights from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., said Judge Rubel. Using a calendar year as the reference period to calculate the average allowed more flights on some days during seasonal peaks, he said.
“You cannot turn the night into day,” said Rubel. “The law says you have to pay special attention to the residents’ interests in having a night’s rest.”
Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) lost a separate bid in the lower court to increase the number of flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. It has asked the top court for permission to appeal and Leipzig judges still have to decide on that request. That case isn’t part of today’s hearing.
Gronefeld told the court it should have added the carrier’s cases to today’s hearing to take their arguments into account. Lufthansa, TUI AG and Thomas Cook AG’s Condor are affected by the current preliminary ban on night flights, according to Fraport.
Rubel said at the first day of hearings yesterday that the state’s decision to allow the 17 night flights may already be flawed because local residents and communities weren’t adequately heard on the issue.
Lufthansa, TUI AG (TUI1) and Thomas Cook AG’s Condor are affected by the current preliminary ban on night flights, according to Fraport.
The Leipzig court will issue its rulings on April 4 at 10:00 a.m. local time, the court said in an e-mail today.
Frankfurt 17 Night Flight Rule May Be Lifted, Top Court Says
The state of Hesse’s plan to allow 17 nights flights on a new Frankfurt airport runway may face additional reviews after a German court said local residents and communities weren’t adequately heard on the issue.
Residents who challenged Fraport AG (FRA)’s expansion and night flights may win that part of the case on procedural grounds, Presiding Judge Ruediger Rubel said at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig today. The state would have to grant the plaintiffs a new hearing and issue a new decision. The court’s assessment is preliminary and may change after hearing arguments, he said.
“The court’s task isn’t to make its own planning decisions, it’s rather to review whether the authorities’ planning violated rights,” Rubel said when opening the hearing. “The law grants the authorities a wide leeway and it’s not our task to come up with better ideas to substitute those of the competent planning body.”
The runway and night flights were challenged by local residents, neighboring cities and businesses. The state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, in 2007 approved Fraport’s plan to build an additional runway and a third terminal, enabling Europe’s No. 3 airport to handle more flights. The state allowed an average of 150 night flights and capped the number between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. at 17.
A lower court approved the extension in 2009 while asking the state of Hesse to review its decision on night flights because of noise concerns. While allowing the runway to be completed and used while the case is pending, in October the lower court temporarily halted flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. because it said the residents were likely to prevail on that part of their case.
The state of Hesse, the target of the lawsuit, defends the project, including the 17 night flights, and is supported by Fraport, which is participating in the case.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) had lost a separate bid in the lower court to expand the number on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. It has asked the top court for permission to appeal and Leipzig judges still have to decide on that request. Lufthansa, TUI AG (TUI1) and Thomas Cook AG’s Condor are affected by the current preliminary ban on night flights, according to Fraport.
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
To contact the reporters on this story: Karin Matussek in Leipzig via firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons in London at aaarons@Bloomberg.net
German Court to Begin Review of Frankfurt Night Flight Ban
A German federal court will begin a hearing tomorrow, March 13, to decide whether to extend a controversial ban on night flights at Frankfurt airport that has seriously disrupted freighter operations at Europe’s second largest air cargo hub.
Lufthansa Cargo has warned it will cut investment at Frankfurt and reduce its freighter fleet if the Leipzig court upholds the ban, which came into effect at the end of October.
Lufthansa says the ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time will cost around $52 million a year, as freight has to be re-routed to airports with 24/7 operations.
The carrier, which has lost customers, mostly in the U.S., because it can no longer guarantee next-day delivery, canceled three weekly freighter flights from Frankfurt to China following the ban. It has been diverting other Asia-bound flights to Cologne-Bonn airport, where it also stationed one of its 18 MD-11 freighters for flights to New York and Chicago.
Lufthansa Cargo was due to operate 10 of 17 night time flights before a local court imposed a surprise ban to curtail aircraft noise.
Fraport, the airport operator, and Lufthansa have sought to placate local residents with further noise reduction measures, including higher flight paths, extra sound proofing of windows and the purchase of houses under the flight path.
More than 50 percent of German air freight — around 2.3 million tons — flies out of Frankfurt, of which a third was transported on night flights.
Lufthansa says it can resume night flights in June or July if the court ends the ban.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.