After “Bruxelles Air Libre”, a new action group “Coeur Europe” has filed a complaint


Last month reported about the complaint against “5 facts about Brussels Airport” that came from action group “Bruxelles Air Libre” after a full-page ad from Brussels Airport in a few newspapers.

Now a new complaint has been lodged by lawyer Philippe Vanlangendonck. This time the complainants focus on Arnaud Feist, Brussels Airport CEO and Marc Descheemaecker, chairman of Brussels Airport for false advertising, forgery and manipulation at the expense of public health.

Coeur Europe, a Brussels think thank says that 21 false statements have been announced by Brussels Airport since December 2016.


Below you can find the detailed press release by Coeur Europe (Nederlands / Français):

How Arnaud Feist’s 21 malicious lies are hindering Brussels Airport sustainable development

Arnaud Feist, Brussels Airport CEO, has recently initiated a misleading advertising and PR campaign in the Belgian press to cover-up for the lack of environmental measures at the airport. Such “do-nothing” strategy which imposes a heavy burden on Brussels population is not sustainable.

To the contrary, it should be noted that:

  • Brussels Airport current operations impose an extremely high noise footprint on Brussels population.
  • True and immediate solutions do exist to support the airport sustainable development.
  • Mr. Feist blackmailing attempt on airport jobs is both cynical and mistaken.

As we counted at least specific 21 malicious lies, you will find below the corrections and true facts for each of them:

1. Brussels Airport current operations impose a very high noise footprint on Brussels population

– Lie # 1 : Only 14.000 people are annoyed by airport noise ?

The airport indicates a number of 14.000 “annoyed” people which corresponds to only 1/3 of the “highly annoyed” people based on EC & VLAREM calculation methods. The real number of simply “annoyed” people is at least nine times higher (130.000) and the new OMS 2017 guidelines will most likely review this number upwards.

– Lie # 2 : Since 2000, 50% less people are affected by noise pollution ?

In 2000, noise pollution was the heaviest during the evening, with 314.750 inhabitants living inside the Levening > 50 dB noise contour. In 2015, based on the official airport figures, such number was still 202.444 inhabitants. The reduction in noise pollution since the Sabena bankruptcy is therefore 35% and not 50%.

– Lie # 3 : The distance between Brussels Airport and the city is within European norms ?

Brussels Airport runways are within 9 km from the Parc Royal at the city centre. Such distance is less than half the 19 km for the average of the 50 main European airports. In its false advertising, Brussels Airport compares itself with Madrid without indicating that the Madrid airport has made major investments:

– the establishment of an indemnification program in 1996
– the opening of 4 new runways in 1998, to avoid flying over the city centre.

Brussels Airport must at a minimum:
– use runway 19 (north-south) for all fights to the southern Europe, the middle-east, and Asia.
– move runway 25L by 1.800 meters to the east to avoid planes flying over densely populated areas.
– properly indemnify all remaining citizen subject to airport noise.

– Lie # 4 : Zürich Airport situation is similar to Brussels Airport ?

Both airports are located within similar distances to their city centres, but only Zürich has taken strong environmental measures:
– No plane flies above Zürich, some routes even make a 270° turn right after take-of to avoid densely populated areas.
– Since 2010, a strict night-time curfew is set-up from 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM, with only delayed fights allowed from 11:00 PM to 11:30 PM.
– Key noise insulation programs have been implemented, some up to 10 km away from runways.

– Lie # 5 : The outcries of civil associations don’t help in this case ?

Today, Brussels is the only European capital to be systematically flown over after take-of under dominant winds while alternatives do exist. It is also the only capital to be systematically flown over at night and on weekends. Even Mr. Feist recognised in 2014 that such situation is not right.

The airport must start by using at its full capacity runway 19. Runway 19 is ideally set for all fights to the south and the east, even if the Van Rompuy family which lives nearby does not like it. Planes must also stop using the canal route which runs through Brussels at night and on weekends.

2. True and immediate solutions do exist to support the airport sustainable development

– Lie # 6 : The end of noise pollution fines are critical issues for the airport survival ?

Planes can avoid most noise pollution fines by:
– using the routes IKEA and ZOULOU which avoid the most densely populated areas.
– reducing their power when flying at low altitude over densely populated areas.
– avoiding peak accelerations over densely populated areas.

– Lie # 7 : Removing pure cargo from Brussels Airport would be an economic and social suicide ?

Mr. Feist does not make an adequate distinction between “Belly Cargo” which runs on commercial fights and “Pure Cargo” which does not belong any more to “city airports”.

Singapore Airlines is ready to continue its commercial fights in Zaventem while moving its pure cargo fights to Schiphol: Trying to tie both fights together is a mistake. Relocating cargo activities from Zaventem to better fitted airports will facilitate overall growth, it will not destroy jobs.

– Lie # 8 : Night fights are useful at Brussels Airport ?

98% of Brussels Airport night cargo is for DHL. In other European countries, DHL already operates its night fights away from large urban centres: Frankfurt-Hahn & Leipzig in Germany, East-Midlands in the UK, Vitoria in Spain and Bergamo in Italy.

As DHL has already done across Europe, we must delocalise night fights. Last year, Coeur-Europe forwarded a document outlining several options to DHL’s top-management in Germany and we have been thanked by DHL for our proposals to improve our airport infrastructures. Why are some politicians and the airport top-management the only ones pursuing a rearguard combat?

– Lie # 9 : Lengthening the night depends on day-capacity increases ?

Between 6:00 AM and 6:30 AM, Brussels Airport departing fights are charter fights towards south European beaches. Such fights don’t belong to an airport so close to a city centre, specially so early in the morning. As a counter-example, Ryanair supports more destinations from Eindhoven without ever taking-of before 8:00 AM.

In addition, Brussels Airport activity is pretty light at mid-day, lighter than Gatwick’s level of activity, a major airport which operates more fights than Brussels Airport with only a single runway!

– Lie # 10 : ILS are necessary on runways 07 ?

Increasing the airport activity level while maintaining very low altitude over-flys over the country’s most densely populated areas would be a total nonsense.
– All other airports favour fight routes over the least populated areas – Frankfurt has invested in a 4th runway
– Schiphol has invested in a 6th runway
– Madrid has invested in 4 new runways

Any capacity increase must be subject to Flanders acceptance of OACI’s balanced approach rules and to new runway investments.

– Lie # 11 : Brussels Airport, a reference on security issues ?

The international report about the 2008 Kalitta fight accident recommended installing an EMAS (Engineered Material Arrestor System) on the southern end of runway 19. This small 8 M€ investment has never been implemented.

Together, the two European airports of the Macquarie Group (a key shareholder of Brussels and Copenhagen airports) have reported 3 of the 6 cargo fight-accidents which happened between 2004 and 2013 across ALL European airports. This very-high share is the consequence of fairly low acceptance standards for foreign companies.

– Lie # 12 : We have to acknowledge that the airport won’t move ?

To manage is to foresee. Mr. Feist has already confessed he did not anticipate the March 22nd attack. If he does not assess and evaluate the possible relocation of some of his activities, he is no longer acting as a CEO.

It will be easier to grow our cargo activities further away from the town centre. DHL has already done it everywhere else in Europe for its night fights: in Frankfurt-Hahn & Leipzig for Germany, in East Midlands for the UK, in Vitoria for Spain, and in Bergamo for Italy.

– Lie # 13 : Beauvechain, a total non-sense ?

Reshaping the underused Beauvechain military airport into a mixed airport supporting both civilian cargo and military fights represents at max a 165 M€ investment. The financial evaluation has been established with the support of a major international airport engineering firm.

Beauvechain could progressively welcome other fights on up to three runways, including night fights and charter fights. Other options for a partial relocation of Zaventem activities include Bertrix-Jehonville, Liège, Ostend and Zoersel.

– Lie # 14 : Human-rights associations are refusing to participate to my 2040 Forum ?

Bruxelles Air Libre et Coeur-Europe have both offered to participate, and received no answer.

Delaying to 2040 any structural solution to Brussels Airport key issues makes no sense. A sustainable project must be developed without delay. Too many Belgian people live around an airport which is not only one of the worst in Europe for environmental issues, but also the only one where nothing serious has never been implemented to reduce the pain of a major population part.

3. Mr. Feist blackmailing attempt on airport jobs is both cynical and mistaken

– Lie # 15 : Singapore Cargo, Yangtze River Express and Saudi Cargo 747 cargo planes are leaving Brussels because of its noise pollution regulations ?

Singapore Cargo had already seen a 30% reduction in its cargo business, from 14,539 tons in 2014 to 10,576 tons in 2015, long before the announcement of the forthcoming removal of noise tolerances. Saudi Cargo also saw its activity decrease from 14,834 to 11,318 tons between 2014 and 2015.

In 2015, the arrival at Zaventem (Brussels airport) of Ethiopian Cargo, a low-cost and preferred DHL supplier for cargo to Asia (through its Addis-Abeba hub) has taken away key market share from other DHL suppliers. Ethiopian cargo through Addis Abeba has jumped from 5,246 tons in 2014 to 24,156 tons in 2015, leading other suppliers to prefer larger platforms where market demand remains higher.

– Lie # 16 : 747 cargo fights represent as much as 1.250 jobs ?

While Arnaud Feist figures are only 1/3 of the figures presented two weeks earlier by Air Cargo Belgium, real Zaventem employment figures for 747 cargo fights are about 5 times smaller : 240 jobs.

Detailed National Bank of Belgium figures indicate that in 2012 the 1,116,412 air cargo tons managed by the five elgian airports together generated 486 jobs for airline companies (mainly in Liège), 216 jobs for land transport, 1,943 jobs for handling and storage, and 2,882 jobs for express mail activities (not affected by 747 cargo departures).

During 2015, there were 1,091 rotations of 747 cargo fights at Zaventem, including 99 for Yangtze River Express, 196 for Saudi Airlines, and 204 for Singapore Cargo. These 1091 rotations represent about 120,000 tons and therefore about 11 % of the 2,159 jobs related to handling, storage, and land transportation for cargo merchandises across the 5 Belgian airports. These last figures are consistent with the ratio of 0.2 jobs per 100 tons per year at Cargolux, a large Luxembourg cargo player which is vertically integrated and managed its entire airport logistics chain.

– Lie # 17 : The airport is the largest private employer of Brussels inhabitants?

Each employer taken separately, Brussels Airport (BAIC) is a small 500 people company which employs very few Brussels inhabitants. When looking at its entire employment basin, the 12 km² airport zone at Brussels door steps creates only 17,500* jobs, a sub-optimal use of space with only 3 jobs per 2.000 m² (* source : National Bank of Belgium).

– Lie # 18 : Human-rights associations don’t contest the figures of 3.000 jobs for Brussels inhabitants at Zaventem ?

Mr. Feist figures are grossly over-estimated. The detailed analysis of the supporters of the 2015 petition in favour of airport work shows that only 3.3% of them live in the Brussels region, which translates into about 580 jobs for Brussels inhabitants over the entire airport zone.

– Lie # 19 : Impossible to know if airport jobs offered to Brussels inhabitants are low-end jobs ?

Monsieur Carlos Van Nunen, Head of Public Affairs and a manager close to Arnaud Feist, communicated this information during an October 2014 meeting between Coeur-Europe and Mr. Feist, at the Airport: Mr. Van Nunen explained that the airport was helping Brussels by hiring its non qualified labour force.

– Lie # 20 : Plaintiffs have no real arguments to counter Brussels Airport advertising?

The 19 previous points underline the numerous lies made by Brussels Airport and Mr. Feist, and it will be up to Belgian judges to decide whether the airport advertising was fair or fake.

– Lie # 21 : Plaintiffs are unqualified and insulting ?

Coeur-Europe analyses are quite detailed. For example, after more than twenty years of cover-up, Coeur-Europe was the first one to inform all Belgian political leaders in the fall of 2014 that the entire cost of building a new airport runway could be as low as 120 M€. And are we insulting Mr. Feist when we only dare to call false public claims as malicious lies? Belgian people are quite nice and ready to accept many things, but when it’s too much, then it’s really too much. Brussels Airport tries to compensate for a flawed industrial strategy with a strong media push, but such move only underlines its repeated lies and a lack of strategic vision. Trying to beef-up short term profits to the detriment of sustainable development is never the right approach, specially when key airport infrastructures are at stake.

Coeur-Europe, January 2017.


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