Brussels Airlines challenges permit for Brussels Airport: “Limiting flights should be a last resort”

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Brussels Airlines is contesting the new environmental permit for Brussels Airport at the Council for Permit Disputes (in Dutch: Raad voor Vergunningsbetwistingen). Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) issued this permit at the end of March, imposing several conditions. However, Brussels Airlines argues that these conditions are not sufficiently balanced.

The indefinite-duration permit places a cap on the number of flight movements at Brussels Airport, limiting them to a maximum of 240,000 per year by 2032. This restriction is a significant point of contention for Brussels Airlines.

Flemish Region issues new environmental permit for Brussels Airport, maintains night flights

We do not oppose the permit’s objectives to reduce noise pollution and emissions,” says spokesperson Nico Cardone. “But there are European regulations for achieving this, known as the ‘balanced approach.’ According to these rules, restricting the number of flights should be a last resort, which was not considered here.”

As a result, Brussels Airlines has initiated a procedure at the Council for Permit Disputes. The airline believes there are other measures that could first be implemented to mitigate disturbances. Cardone points to the renewal of the airline’s fleet, noting that their new A320neo aircraft emit up to 20% less and produce up to 50% less noise.

Only if other measures fail should operational restrictions be considered. This is the European law, and it is not being applied here,” Cardone emphasizes.

Additionally, Cardone suggests more efficient use of runways and improving home insulation to reduce noise for residents. He insists that operational restrictions should only be a last resort if these measures prove ineffective.

More Challenges Ahead

Brussels Airlines is not alone in contesting the airport’s permit. Thirteen environmental organizations and resident associations announced their intention to challenge the permit at the Council for Permit Disputes as well. They argue that the conditions imposed by the permit are insufficient to protect the health of nearby residents and to mitigate the impact on the climate and environment.

A contentious debate is also ongoing within the Brussels government regarding the permit. Ecolo Environment Minister Alain Maron unilaterally announced plans to appeal the decision, a move opposed by his Open VLD colleague Sven Gatz. Since the Brussels government must decide by consensus, the matter is currently deadlocked.

Brussels Airport itself has expressed dissatisfaction with the conditions set forth in the permit. “The restriction on the number of flight movements affects the future of the entire airport ecosystem,” the airport stated in an initial response. “While 240,000 flight movements per year allows for growth until 2032, an adjustment will be necessary for further growth beyond that point.

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