John Holland-Kaye again will not commit to no Heathrow night flights (11.30pm to 6am) at EAC hearing

When the Airports Commission final report was published on 1st July, one of the conditions of a 3rd Heathrow was that there should be no night flights. The report stated: “Following construction of a third runway at the airport there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period 11:30pm to 6:00am” and “the additional capacity from a third runway would enable airlines to re-time very early morning arrivals.” Already by its statement on 6th July, Heathrow was trying to cast doubt on the conditions, with John Holland-Kaye saying: “I’m sure there is a package in there that we can agree with our local communities, with the airlines and with Government.” Asked directly again, at the Environmental Audit Committee session on 4th November, if Heathrow would accept no night flights, he said Heathrow “we are not in a position to do that yet.”  It had not yet accepted a ban on night flights, and the airport was “confident we will be able to find a way forward”  in discussions with airlines and government, and it could “significantly reduce” night flights.  Mr Holland-Kaye instead talked of the alleged economic benefit to the UK of flights between 4.30 and 6am. He was asked by Committee members whether the government should agree to a Heathrow runway, (perhaps by December) before Heathrow firmly committed to the no night flights condition.  Mr Holland-Kaye could not give an answer.


Environmental Audit Committee

Inquiry into:  The Airports Commission report: Carbon emissions, air quality and noise inquiry

Scope of the EAC inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee is holding an inquiry into the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise should the Airport Commission’s recommendation of a third runway at Heathrow Airport be adopted.

Full terms of reference

Link to EAC website     

Link to all written evidence submitted to the EAC   

The full EAC session on 4th November can be viewed live on Parliament TV at

The full transcript of the 4th November session is available at

Witness(es):John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd Matt Gorman, Director Sustainability & Environment Director, Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd

Sir Howard Davies, Former Chairman, Airports Commission Phillip Graham, Former Secretary, Airports Commission Julia King, former Commissioner, Airports Commission Eirik Pitkethly, Former Deputy Head of Secretariat, Airports Commission

The earlier session was on 14th October 2015

The transcript of that is at

  • | Published 19 Oct 2015  Evidence given by Dr Andy Jefferson, Director, Sustainable Aviation, and Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director, Aviation Environment Federation;
  • Lord True CBE, 2M Boroughs, Daniel Moylan, Board Member/Mayor’s Adviser on Aviation and Crossrail 2, Richard de Cani, Managing Director, Planning, Transport for London, and Councillor Amrit Mann, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment, London Borough of Hounslow (at 3.00pm).

See also

Heathrow not willing to accept a ban on night flights, saying it constrains links to regional airports

John Holland-Kaye is hugely confident that he will get a new runway, saying he was now “80%” sure that David Cameron’s decision would be for Heathrow. The Airports Commission suggested a condition that there would be a complete ban on flights between 11.30pm and 6am due to the unacceptable noise of night flights.Mr Holland-Kaye says night flights were not something to “throw away lightly”. Heathrow currently is allowed 5,800 night flights per year, meaning an average of 16 arriving each morning, typically between 4.30am and 6am. British Airways wants to keep night flights, and is Heathrow’s largest airline. Last week Mr Holland-Kaye said shifting night flights to later slots would damage connections to the rest of the UK. “If I talk to regional airports, they all want to see early morning arrivals into Heathrow. They want a flight that comes in from their airport before 8 o’clock in the morning so people can do a full day’s work, can do business in London or can connect to the first wave of long-haul flights going out. You are very quickly going to use up all of the first two hours of the morning if we have a curfew before 6 o’clock, particularly as we then have to move the 16 flights. That really constrains the ability of UK regions to get the benefits from an expanded hub. So it is not something we should throw away lightly.” Heathrow’s links to regional airport would actually fall, with a 3rd runway, according to the Airports Commission. 

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John Holland-Kaye and Sir Howard Davies give evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee

The Environmental Audit Committee is holding an inquiry into the implications for Government commitments on carbon emissions, air quality and noise should the Airport Commission’s recommendation of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport be adopted. It is holding its second evidence session, hearing from John Holland-Kaye and Matt Gorman, of Heathrow – and Sir Howard Davies and Phil Graham, from the (now closed) Airports Commission. They will be asked questions on noise, air pollution and CO2. The Airports Commission, in their final report on 1st July and in supporting documents, gave unsatisfactory answers on all these. There are no details of flight paths from a new runway, with no information on which areas would be newly overflown. There is no certainty that levels of NO2 around the airport, already sometimes over EU legal limits, would not rise with a 50% increase in the size of the airport, and massive increase in road traffic. There is no satisfactory answer on how the UK could meet its aviation carbon target, while building a new runway. Heathrow has put forward various ideas on how it might slightly reduce its noise and NO2 impacts, many speculative (eg. marginally less noisy planes). The airport is not keen on ceasing night flights (11pm to 6am) though that was one of the Commission’s suggested conditions for a runway.

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Heathrow resistance to ban on night flights raises fears over expansion

Extracts  …..

Any sign that Heathrow might be seeking to amend the conditions laid down by Sir Howard Davies’ inquiry is likely to be seized on by the airport’s opponents as grounds for the government to reject the commission’s findings that Europe’s busiest airport should be expanded.

Some of the difficulties with a ban on night flights revolve around issues beyond Heathrow’s control, according to the airport, such as the need to alter bilateral treaties governing access to the UK market. Airlines are also expected to argue against a night flight ban as this would make certain long haul routes more problematic.


While Mr Holland-Kaye would not commit to a ban on night flights, he said he was confident an expanded airport would be able to meet EU air quality limits. He said Heathrow would only release capacity from the new runway if it would not delay compliance with the targets.

Alistair Watson, head of planning at Taylor Wessing, a law firm, said the business case for a third runway was likely to rely heavily on continuing night flights and early morning arrivals.

“These are high value flights for Heathrow, which is precisely why it is getting agitated about the ban,” he said.

Boris Johnson………. said

“As so often with Heathrow in the past, it is all take and no give,” he said. “It also makes it politically impossible for the government now to endorse the airport commission’s recommendation.”

Full FT story at


See earlier: 

Heathrow wants “discussions with government” to negotiate runway conditions set by Airports Commission

The Airports Commission recommended a 3rd runway at Heathrow, subject to a number of conditions (noise, compensation, local consultation, air quality etc). But Heathrow is not keen on these conditions, and now says it is “seeking discussions with government ” on them. John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said Heathrow “would have to consider” the demand from the Commission that there should not be night flights, and that there should be a legal prohibition on a 4th runway. The point of conditions is that they are, well as they say, conditions. But Heathrow says: “We will work with the government to make sure we have a solution that can be delivered. I am not saying today that we will accept all the conditions that have been put down.” Airlines would not like night flights, as they make long haul routes less profitable and problematic. Heathrow’s hope of getting conditions, all recommended for good reasons, removed or reduced will only increase the level of hostility towards the airport by its opponents. Whitehall sources say the government will state its preference for the location of a new runway before Christmas (could be November?) — but will then launch a fresh consultation.

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John Holland-Kaye reluctant to accept conditions on Heathrow runway set by Airports Commission

The Airports Commission, in recommending a 3rd runway at Heathrow, set out a short set of conditions Heathrow would have to meet, to be allowed to build the runway. These conditions are not very onerous. These included a ban on all flights between 11.30pm and 6.00am, better air quality, a legally-enforced “noise envelope”, and that Heathrow should be held to its pledge to spend over £1bn on community compensation. And no 4th runway ever. But now, just days after the Commission’s report, John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, says the airport is “still assessing” the conditions, and “We’ll have to see how it fits into all the other things we’re doing,” and “I’m sure there is a package in there that we can agree with our local communities, with the airlines and with Government.” Quite why conditions to be imposed on a runway to protect the public need to be agreed by the airport itself, not just imposed on it, is a mystery. Lord Adonis said the noise envelope, which the commission said might stipulate that there should be “no overall increase above current levels”, was one of the “weaknesses” of the Commission’s report. It is not even clear what it even means – “total incidence of noise, high levels of noise, noise in particular communities”. when manifestly adding another 50% more planes will increase the overall amount of noise.

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Heathrow third runway unanimously recommended by Airports Commission, but with conditions

The Airports Commission has recommended that a 3rd runway should be built at Heathrow, but only if it can meet stringent conditions on noise and air pollution. Those conditions should include a ban on night flights, legally binding caps on noise and air quality – and legislation to rule out ever building a 4th runway [unlikely to be effective?] .The Commission has said their view was “clear and unanimous” that Heathrow’s plan was the strongest case for a runway, delivering the greatest strategic and economic benefits, and they hoped the conditions would make the airport a “better neighbour” than today. The conditions are: – A ban on all scheduled night flights from 11.30pm to 6am….- No fourth runway – the government should make a firm commitment in parliament not to expand further. Davies states: “There is no sound operational or environmental case for a fourth runway.”….- A legally binding “noise envelope”…..- A noise levy on airport users to compensate local communities…. – A legal commitment on air quality (details to be announced, compliant with EU limits)…. – A community engagement board to let local people have a say…. – An independent aviation noise authority to be consulted on flightpaths and operating procedures at airports….- Training and apprenticeships for local people. The government must now decide whether to act on the recommendation – by autumn, or before Christmas.

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