Belfast City Airport to fine flights that breach curfew

20.2.2009   (Belfast Telegraph)

by Linda Mckee



George Best Belfast City Airport today revealed that airlines which break its
late night curfew will be fined — as it emerged there were more than 500 flights
after the 9.30pm deadline last year.


The airport hopes to secure planning permission for an extension to the runway.
At present, flights should only operate between 6.30am and 9.30pm, and it has
given assurances that this will not alter if the extension is granted.

However, figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph under the Freedom of Information
Act found that 535 flights were recorded in and out of the airport after 9.30pm,
174 of them after 10pm.

Management at the airport has confirmed that airlines are to be fined over late
flights, as first recommended by the DoE’s Examination in Public report in 2006,
with the money levied going to a Community Fund launched this week.

The fining system will see airlines pay £50 for flights between 9.45pm and 10pm,
as part of a scheme that rises to £600 for flights after 11pm. The money gathered
will go to a charity that raises money for disadvantaged children and may fund
other community projects in east Belfast and north Down in the future.

The airport said it has set up the Community Fund to manage the number of requests
made by airlines for extensions outside scheduled operating hours and it expects
these to fall in 2009, following a 28% decrease in 2008 from 2007.

Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose said: "George Best Belfast City Airport
has the most limited operating hours of any airport in the UK, therefore a 28%
reduction in flight extensions is significant, given that last year was the busiest
in the airport’s history.

"Belfast City Airport operates to the highest possible standards and, considering
there are over 100 flights a day, the fact that less than 3% of delays are caused
by the airport authority demonstrates our commitment to handling this issue."

However, critics who have called for a public inquiry into plans for a runway
extension said it is vital that late flights be reduced further.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said: "Local people fully understand that
there will always be emergencies and exceptional circumstances but this is now
routine and destroys confidence in the airport’s claims that it is sticking to

Belfast City Airport Watch spokeswoman Fiona McKinley said: "This is a diabolical
situation, where this designated city airport promises that it will abide by its
planning agreement — a legal document — which states that it should only permit
late flights in exceptional circumstances within the ‘extended hours’ period of
9.31pm to 11.59pm, and then allows 535 such circumstances to occur."

The cash sums to be levied are lower than recommended by the EIP and do not reflect
the seriousness of the flights flying well past the curfew, she said.

The airport should not view the community "pay-off" as an excuse to extend operating
hours by stealth, she added.

"We will be monitoring their behaviour very carefully to ensure there is no increase
in the level of abuse of operating hours. It is one of the few protections we
have and we will fight to safeguard it."

Funds will initially be distributed through the Energy for Children Charitable