Heathrow is planning to name and shame the noisiest airlines operating in and out of the airport, as part of the hub’s campaign to secure permission for new runways.
Heathrow airport Holdings, operator of Europe’s noisiest airport, is also proposing a “significant” increase in the fines it imposes on airlines that breach its jet din regulations.
These measures, plus changes to its noise compensation regime for residents living close to Heathrow, underline how Colin Matthews, chief executive, is intensifying efforts to gain approval for expansion at the airport.
An independent commission is considering how to solve the UK’s hub capacity crunch, because Heathrow is operating at near full capacity on its two runways, and some senior coalition figures, including George Osborne, chancellor, favour expanding the airport. However, Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, is lobbying for a new hub in the Thames estuary or an expanded Stansted airport.
The jet din suffered by residents in west London is the biggest single issue holding back Heathrow’s expansion. The airport is now planning to issue quarterly figures from this summer that rank airlines on their noise performance at the hub.
Heathrow would not say which airlines are the noisiest, but the rankings are expected to be influenced by the quality of their fleets – newer aircraft such as the Airbus A380 superjumbo are markedly quieter than older versions of the Boeing 747 – and also whether the carriers comply with the airport’s jet din regulations.
Heathrow, whose shareholders include Spain’s Ferrovial and Chinese and Qatari sovereign wealth funds, already imposes penalties on airlines when their jets breach the airport’s day and night noise limits, and these fines are due to be increased.
It collected £40,000 in penalties from airlines last year following 73 noise infringements, and handed the fines back to local communities in the form of funding for amenities.
John Stewart of Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, a group which opposes the airport’s expansion, welcomed the plans to publish figures about airlines’ noise performance.
“It is a sign that Heathrow airport are trying to persuade airlines to use the quietest possible aircraft,” he added.
Heathrow plans to introduce a voluntary ban on the noisiest jets, such as the ageing McDonnell Douglas MD80, from using the airport by 2015.
Heathrow levies higher user charges on airlines operating noisy aircraft, and its research suggests that carriers often use their quietest jets on routes to the airport.
Heathrow is also considering new operating procedures for aircraft using the airport that could reduce the number of residents affected by jet din, although these changes would have to approved by regulators.
For example, Heathrow is interested in the possibility of arriving aircraft flying in on steeper descents, which should mean that fewer west London households hear the jets.
Finally, Heathrow is considering changes to its compensation regime, so that those living closest to the airport could have all their noise insulation costs paid for by the hub.
The Civil Aviation Authority, citing EU statistics, concluded in 2011 that Heathrow was Europe’s noisiest airport, with 725,000 people affected, although the number is falling because aircraft are becoming quieter due to technology advances.
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