(photo: Heathrow Airport)
Tue 9 Jan 2018 – Heathrow Airport has increased its environmental charges by 7% from January 1 in efforts to encourage airlines to use their most efficient aircraft when serving the UK hub. Around 80 per cent of the total environmental charge is recovered through noise charges and the rest through charges on aircraft NOx emissions. Heathrow says the higher charges are part of its Heathrow 2.0 sustainability strategy to make the airport cleaner and quieter for local communities. The strategy also includes a pledge to ensure all the airport’s cars and small vans are electric powered by 2020, and Heathrow has announced it has taken delivery of its 50th electric vehicle. Heathrow is about to launch a public consultation over its expansion plans and the search is now on for someone to head the new independent Community Engagement Board.
The environment charges for aircraft operators at Heathrow make up 29% of the overall charging regime, with departing passenger charges accounting for 67% and aircraft parking the remaining 4%. The charging structure is based on a ‘maximum allowable yield’ per passenger and with Heathrow forecasting passenger numbers of around 77 million, overall revenues from the charges are expected to exceed £1.5 billion ($2bn) in 2017.
To boost UK connectivity, the airport has announced a 50% increase from January 1 in the passenger discount for domestic flights, which will have the effect of cutting £15 ($20) off airport charges for UK fliers, although it is up to airlines as whether they pass on the reduction to customers. Up till now, environmental charges have acted as a balancing factor for the shortfall in revenue from the passenger discounts. In its consultation document on airport charges for 2018 published last August, Heathrow said it intended to continue the emphasis on environmental performance by it acting as the balancing factor for the shortfall in revenues from UK and European passenger discounts and the transferring passenger charge discount.
“This rebalance reflects the increased emphasis on environmental performance and best in class fleet operations while at the same time addressing load factor and empty seat issues, the support of which are in the public interest,” said the document.
The environmental charge is based on the ICAO noise standard of the aircraft landing at Heathrow, with six categories: Chapter 3, Chapter 4 (High and Base) and Chapter 14 (High, Base and Low). Operators of old and noisy Chapter 3 aircraft will now pay £8,831.66 ($12,000) per landing, although the number of this type operating at Heathrow is now negligible. By comparison, the cheapest charge is £757.00 (up from £709.20 in 2017) for aircraft meeting the Chapter 14 (Low) noise standard, although this only applies to new aircraft submitted for certification on or after 31 December 2017. Chapter 4 aircraft will now pay a charge of between £2,271.00 and £2,523.33 per landing.
The emissions per kg of NOx landing charge rises from £15.42 to £15.96.
“Heathrow is determined to reduce the airport’s environmental impacts,” commented CEO John Holland-Kaye. “Increasing our environmental charges to incentivise airlines to bring their cleanest, quietest aircraft to Heathrow is the best way to cut emissions and shrink the noise footprint around the airport. It is a tangible step that will make a real difference to local communities.”
As well as investing in new electric vehicles, Heathrow has spent over £4 million ($5.4m) in EV charging infrastructure since its ‘Go Electric’ pledge two years ago, with a total commitment of more than £5 million by the end of this year. The airport claims to have the highest density of EV charging infrastructure in Europe, with over 80 charging points available to passengers, staff and airside vehicles. It is also collaborating with TfL, London’s transport authority, to install seven rapid charging points in the airport taxi feeder park for black cabs this year.
As one of the world’s first 10 companies in the world to commit to the EV100 initiative led by The Climate Group, the airport plans to turn all large vans and half of its HGVs electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030.
“Our Heathrow 2.0 sustainability strategy and global commitments like EV100 tie Heathrow to some ambitious but realistic targets to clean up our fleet and speed up the take-up of electric technology across our airport,” said Holland-Kaye.
The airport is launching a 10-week public planning consultation on January 17 over its expansion and new runway proposals. Views are being sought on issues like terminal design, how best to mitigate environmental impacts and whether flights should be concentrated over a single area or spread more widely. Although the airport intends to maintain its 6.5 hour ban on scheduled night flights, the public will be able to comment on when flights should start and finish.
Alongside the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (HACC), the airport has started the search for a high-profile Chair to head up the new independent Community Engagement Board (CEB), which is to be established shortly and act as the focal point for engagement between the airport, local authorities, community groups and passengers. The Chair will be appointed by a panel comprising the existing HACC, Heathrow Airport, government and a nominated community representative. The search is being conducted by GatenbySanderson and the closing date for applications is January 15.
Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport’s own independent Noise Management Board (NMB) has recently released its second annual progress report at a public meeting held at the airport. With representatives from the aviation sector, local community groups, local and national government, and the UK CAA, the NMB aims to address and manage aircraft noise issues at the airport.
The Board announced progress on a range of issues such as helping to drive the Airbus A320 modification programme to eliminate the “whine” air flow problem from arriving aircraft. The meeting also included a demonstration of a ‘Virtual Community Noise Simulator’ that can show different levels of aircraft noise, including how these levels could be reduced as new flight procedures or technology are introduced.
Similar to the Heathrow experience and following pressure from Gatwick campaign groups, a priority area under consideration is the spacing out of aircraft flight paths so that overflown communities experience a more equal share – as opposed to a concentration – of flight paths on any given day. A possible solution has been identified by NATS air traffic experts for a potential introduction in the near future, reports the Board. Plans are also being progressed to deliver a meaningful noise reduction at a time of day when noise sensitivity is at its peak.
“Some of the work we are progressing will deliver improvements over the next year or so, although other projects are longer term,” said Bo Redeborn, Chairman of the NMB. “We are working closely with our industry partners on some major projects, including the large-scale redesign of the London and Gatwick airspace, and this work has the potential to deliver some significant benefits for our local communities.”
Last month, UK campaign group Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) launched a guide for members of the public adversely impacted by aircraft noise from commercial airlines or light aircraft, including helicopters.
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