Overall impact on local communities of the very limited night operations at Heathrow could be reduced by changing the standard approach route for aircraft landing at the airport at night, says British Airways.
Currently, approaching aircraft at night use the system of ‘westerly preference’ which was put in place when there were many more night-time departures than there are now. This leads to aircraft generally landing from the east, approaching the airport over West London, whenever weather conditions permit.
British Airways supports the Government’s recent suggestion to the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee, which represents community as well as aviation interests, that there should be a review of runway preferential use at night as part of the next stage of the current night flights consultation. This should test the benefits and feasibility of a switch to ‘easterly preference’.
Otherwise no radical change is necessary to the night flights regime at London’s airports, says the airline in its response to the first phase of the Government’s night flights consultation.
Because of the present severe restrictions on terminal space at Heathrow, British Airways supports the recommendations of Heathrow airport’s scheduling committee, which represents all airlines, that a small number of additional night flights - within the existing night noise quota - should be permitted over the next five years. This would amount to four to five flights a night, of which British Airways might expect to get two. The limit has not been changed for the last five years
This small number of extra flights would allow for growth in British Airways’ far eastern market - which is as vitally important to British trade as to the airline - for a few years until Terminal 5, if approved, allowed some arriving flights from other parts of the world to come into Heathrow later than they now do. Terminal 5 would then allow the number of night flights to return to the current level.