DfT night flights consultation – deadline for first section is 3rd March (second section 31st May)

The DfT has a consultation currently, on night flights.  The consultation has two parts. First, by 3 March the DfT seeking views on its proposals to extend the current night flight restrictions, set in 2017, for an additional two years from October 2022, and to ban the noisiest category of aircraft from operating in the night from October 2022 (this is only relevant for the few airports at which these planes are permitted). Then second, by 31st May it is seeking wider views on its national night flight policy and the structure of night flight restrictions beyond 2024.  Groups concerned about aircraft noise are very much opposed to the DfT’s proposal to extend current night flight restrictions for an additional 2 years, as it is widely acknowledged that plane noise at night disturbs sleep thousands, and negatively affects their mental and physical health.  The government has repeatedly rolled forward night flight limits set many years ago, without any proper re-examination of the issues. There are claims of the economic benefits of night flights, and these need to be re-assessed. With falling business flights, one frequent justification is to increase the number of daily “rotations” by low-cost airlines, keeping their fare prices low.



The consultation is here

Guidance from the Aviation Communities Forum (ACF) and John Stewart is at Night Flights Consultation key points 2020
Guidance how to respond from GACC at Gatwick is at DECEMBER 2020 NIGHT FLIGHT CONSULTATION QUESTIONS 6-12

Night flights

The government’s consultation on night flights has now been split into two parts.
1. By 3 March it is seeking views on its proposals to extend the current night flight restrictions, set in 2017, for an additional two years from October 2022, and to ban the noisiest category of aircraft (Quota Count 4 aircraft) from operating in the night from October 2022.  These points are covered by questions 6-12 of the consultation.
2. By 31 May it is seeking wider views on its national night flight policy,  the structure of night flight restrictions beyond 2024, dispensations and airport designation arrangements (questions 13-77 of the consultation).
The consultation itself is here. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/night-flight-restrictions-at-heathrow-gatwick-and-stansted-airports-between-2022-and-2024-plus-future-night-flight-policy/night-flight-restrictions#noise-abatement-objective-for-the-period-october-2022-to-october-2024
If people want to use parts of the ACF response in your own please feel free to do so, although it’s always best to use your own words wherever possible.
In summary the current draft responses argue for:
  • no extension of the current night flight restrictions for an additional two years, on the grounds that it is complacent, irresponsible and fails to take account of ever-growing evidence on the health and other costs of night flights
  • instead, a significant reduction in night flights in the remainder of the current regulatory period, to 2022, and thereafter, a ban on night flights at all UK airports for a full eight-hour period
  • if that is rejected, much lower limits on the number of night flights, restricting them to services which are genuinely essential for economic reasons (and emergencies), and much tougher regulation to ensure that all night flights are operated by the least noisy categories of aircraft, that future pricing of night flights fully reflects the costs they impose and that dispensations are only granted in genuinely exceptional circumstances.  
  • clear criteria for airport designation accompanied by robust, effective arrangements for the regulation of aircraft noise using the powers that designation provides, or by the introduction of an alternative form of regulation.

Airspace modernisation

The Airspace Strategy Board, which oversees the airspace modernisation programme, is due to meet on 9 February.  The Aviation Communities Forum don’t yet have an agenda for that meeting but have written to the aviation minister setting out critical gaps in the policy, governance and technology foundations of the programme and asking that these are discussed at the Board.

The DfT website: 


Night flight restrictions

Published 2 December 2020

The government recognises that noise from aircraft taking-off and landing at night is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations. We also recognise that there is evidence, including in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) revised Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region, that sleep disturbance caused by aircraft night operations can have adverse health impacts on overflown communities.

At the same time, the aviation sector has material value to the economy and night flights are an important contributor to this at many airports. The aviation industry plays a significant role in the UK economy and it connects people and UK businesses with the world. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s aviation network was the third largest in the world, after the USA and China[footnote 1]. In 2019, UK airports served over 370 destinations in around 100 countries and handled over 297 million passengers[footnote 2]. Aviation also facilitates global trade with £95 billion of goods exported by air extra-EU countries in 2018[footnote 3]. The sector directly provided around 230,000 jobs with many more employed indirectly[footnote 2] and the sector contributed at least £22 billion annually to UK GDP[footnote 4].

This consultation process

This is a two-stage consultation process which seeks views on the regime at the designated airports beyond 2022, and night flights in the national context. This consultation is for a period of 3 months.

Stage 1 of this consultation has 2 purposes. Firstly, we are formally consulting on our proposal to maintain the existing night flight restrictions for the designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) from 2022 to 2024, and our proposal to ban QC4 rated aircraft movements during the night quota period (23:30 to 06:00). Responses to this section of the consultation will allow us to make a final policy decision on the regime for the designated airport beyond 2022 in summer 2021.

Secondly, we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally. This includes whether we should amend our national noise policy to include specific policy for night noise, revising our night flight dispensation guidance, whether we should set criteria for airport designation, and what any future night flight regime at the designated airports should look like.

We would aim to publish stage 2 of this consultation in 2022 which will set out firm proposals for the designated airports beyond 2024.

This process relates to the current designated airports in their current operational form and it does not consider any scenarios related to airport expansion proposals.

This consultation process will be of interest to communities that live near airports or underneath flightpaths, local authorities, airlines, airport operators, and businesses or consumers that depend on the aviation sector.