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Night Flights

Currently 16 flights land at Heathrow between 4:30 am and 6:00 am, and many more between 6:00 am and 7:00 am. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines state that a fixed interval of 8 hours is a minimal choice for night-time protection from noise.

Night Flight daily cycle showing quiet period from 11:30pm to 4:30 am,
       then 16 night arrivals between 4:30 am and 6:00 am,
       then a noisy shoulder period between 6;00 am and 7:00 am.
       World Heath Organisation guidelines say we should have 8 hours peace
       for example from 11pm to 7am

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s position is that WHO guidelines should apply to Heathrow and there should be no flights between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am. This should be deployed in two stages:

  • An end to flights arriving before 6:00 am, by March 2019. Almost all of these arrivals come from cities that are equally well served by flights that arrive at Heathrow during daytime hours.
  • A staged reduction of flights that arrive between 6:00 am and 7:00 am, eventually moving all of them into the day period after 7:00 am.


Responses to consultations submitted in 2021

There have been two consultations on night flights this year.

  • Part 1: A consultation to maintain the existing night flight restrictions for the designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) from 2022 to 2024, and to ban the noisiest (QC4) aircraft between 11:30 pm and 6:00 am.
  • Part 2: A consultation to seek early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally. This will feed into a subsequent consultation stage next year.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign has responded to both these consultations.


Night flight restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports beyond 2024 plus national night flight policy

Department for Transport (DfT) consultation seeking views on on proposals for reforming night flight restrictions at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted beyond 2021.

(Consultation part 2)

The consultation can be found
on the DfT’s website.

Due 3 September 2021

Summary of RHC response

We responded to Part 1 on 3 March 2021 (see below).

The DfT (Department for Transport) published its decision on Part 1 in July:

  • The night noise objective and existing restrictions will be rolled over for a period of three years rather than two as originally proposed in the consultation.
  • The government will proceed with the implementation of a ban on QC4 rated aircraft movements at the designated airports during the night quota period.

We are very disappointed the DfT imposed a three-year rollover of current night flight restrictions at the three designated London airports while consulting on a two-year rollover.

Additionally, the DfT failed to provide evidence supporting the economic benefits and costs of night flights and the impact of night flights on public health, raised by us and others in their responses as being of considerable concern.

Our 3 March responses to Questions 7 to 13 are repeated in the Annex attached to our Part 2 response here. While we seek to avoid duplication, Parts 1 and 2 overlap in many respects and it is important to have the full picture in one place. In many respects our Part 1 responses (below) provide the best expression of our views on night flights in the longer term.

Thumbnail of front page of response

RHC response


Night flight restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports between 2022 and 2024 plus future night flight policy

Department for Transport (DfT) consultation seeking views on on proposals for reforming night flight restrictions at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted in the 2022-24 timescale and beyond.

(Consultation part 1)

The consultation can be found
on the DfT’s website.

Due 3 March 2021

Summary of RHC recommendations

1. Update Noise Objective to that in the Air Navigation Guidance 2017.

2. Introduce a Heathrow Community Noise Objective for sharing of noise.

3. Restrict the number of Heathrow Night Flights, 23:00-07:00 to the numbers in 2020.

4. Arrival and Departure Times to be annotated with an “S” for stand time and “R” for runway time.

5. Introduce a Night Flight Ban, 23:00-07:00 for all scheduled and unscheduled flights except for the relatively few dispensed flights, e.g. emergency flights, with staggered introduction completed by October 2024.

6. The DfT and Heathrow to produce Economic and Environmental Assessments for Heathrow’s night flights so as to properly weigh up the balance of benefit and cost.

7. Government action without further delay to:

  1. Establish the legal status of the WHO guideline values, 2018,
  2. Establish a UK strategy and timetable for reducing the levels of community noise from aircraft and from other major sources to the WHO guideline values, 2018,
  3. Integrate the WHO guidelines with the key National Noise Objective concerning reduction in adverse impacts of noise and the Heathrow Community Noise Objective discussed in Question 7.

8. The DfT to publish SoNa 14 (Night) Report with time for due consideration by stakeholders before closure of the Early Views consultation on night flights on 31 May 2021.

9. The DfT to update and consult on a revised webTAG assessment tool with time for due consideration by stakeholders before closure of the Early Views consultation on night flights on 31 May 2021.

10. The DfT to publish the Heathrow 45 dBA 8hr night, 40 dBA 8hr night and Lmax 8 hr night contours with time for due consideration by stakeholders before closure of the Early Views consultation on night flights on 31 May 2021.

11. In the absence of a Heathrow night flight ban or during any staggered introduction of a night flight ban, all Heathrow QC4 and QC2 aircraft to be banned between 23:00 and 07:00 and all aircraft banned in the Late Evening Shoulder Period, 23:00-23:30, and all operational flights to be banned in Noise Quota Period, 23:30-06:00, and Early Morning Shoulder Period 06:00-07:00.

Thumbnail of front page of response

RHC response

Responses to consultations submitted in 2017


Night flight restrictions at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted

Department for Transport (DfT) consultation seeking views on on proposals for replacing night flight restrictions at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.

The consultation can be found
on the DfT’s website.

Due 20 February 2017

Summary of RHC response

We are disappointed that the Government has not faced up to the challenge and proposed material changes to reduce the excessive noise blight across London from Heathrow’s night flights. The Consultation proposes minimal changes to the restriction on night flights at Heathrow. Over 400,000 people are affected and only a 10% reduction is forecast over the next 35 years and this is 50 years after restrictions were introduced. The number of people affected increased by 8% between 2006 and 2015.

Seventeen years after the WHO Guidelines were published there is still no measurement of the gap between these Guidelines and the far higher noise metrics used by the Government, let alone any attempt to meet the Guidelines.

For most of the first half of the 21st century, according to the Airports Commission, there is unlikely to be any significant reduction in night time noise 23:00-07:00, and given the lack of controls between 06:00 and 07:00 there is a risk noise levels will increase over this period. The Government needs to get a grip on the pollution affecting so many people and stop making excuses for rolling over the regimes unchanged since 2006 until 2022. Firm action is needed now.

Thumbnail of front page of response

RHC response

Responses to earlier consultations

Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow Focus Group Consultation (June 2016)

In preparation for a full Night Flight consultation later in 2016 ahead of a new five year regime from the autumn 2017, the Department for Transport requested input from a selected focus group that included the Richmond Heathrow Campaign.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s response restated our position and submitted detailed evidence to support our position. Our full response is at this link.

Our overall position on night flight noise, as supported by the evidence in our response, is that the negative community impact is far too high with damaging consequences to health, productivity and children’s learning. Furthermore, the noise impact, as experienced by each individual and in relation to the World Health Organisation Guidelines, has and will continue to reduce too slowly.

The Airports Commission estimated in 2015 that the population exposed to noise from Heathrow aircraft above 48 decibels (LAeq 8 hour) in the night period would decrease by only around 10% over the next 35 years from 421,300 people in 2013. This underestimates the much larger numbers exposed if measurements were made, as we recommend, at the WHO Guideline level of 40 decibels (LAeq). WHO recommends most people need 8 hours sleep but those near or under a Heathrow arrival flight path are lucky if they get 5½ hours sleep.

Despite a succession of Government restrictions on night flights at Heathrow over the last fifty years, more people around Heathrow than around any other European Union airport are exposed to levels of aircraft noise at night that exceed the World Health Organisation’s guideline limit values on community noise. In 2013 the number of people exposed to aircraft noise above 48 decibels (LAeq 8 hour) in the night period was 11,600 people at Gatwick compared to 421,300 people at Heathrow.

We do not believe the results of the balanced approach and operating restrictions referred to in the consultation are sufficient to reduce in a timely manner the already excessive level of aircraft noise.

Evidence presented in our paper demonstrates that none of the night period destinations need to be served by night flights, which is a conclusion supported by the Airports Commission. The Commission thought a 3rd runway would be needed to add sufficient capacity to re-allocate night flights to the day/evening. But the evidence we provide suggests efficiency improvements being made add to existing hourly capacity and together these are sufficient to absorb a re-allocation of nighttime passengers into the daytime.

We therefore propose a ban of movements from 23:00 to 07:00. We suggest this is introduced in stages over a period of time with the first stage completed by March 2019 whereby 16 scheduled flights in the night quota period are no longer permitted and are reallocated to slots after 07:00.


Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Stage 2 Consultation (January 2014)

The agreement on limiting night flights expires in October 2014 and the Government has issued a second stage consultation. This largely ignores the evidence and views of residents submitted in Stage 1 last April. The proposal is for a three year regime to October 2017 with no attempt to materially reduce night time noise. Instead there is a proposal to have more arrivals before 0600.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign’s response criticised the Consultation on the basis that it offered:

1. No Option for a Ban on Night Flights

RHC and others in Stage 1 sought a phased Ban on Heathrow Night Flights between 2300 and 0700 but this option has been ignored. Instead the lack of incentives and restrictions during the last two year roll-over from expiry of the previous regime is perpetuated for another three years. The reduction in noise to World Health Organisation guidelines – which say the sleep period should be at least 8 hours for most people – will have been stalled for 5 years.


We say the Government should introduce a new 5 year regime with a Heathrow Night Flight Ban. At the very minimum there should be reduced average noise levels, further limits on the noisiest aircraft, and no scheduled flights before 0530 (instead of the current 0430). These measures are needed to reduce the negative noise impact on people’s health, quality of life and human rights and to achieve WHO standards by the prescribed year 2030.

2. A further 3 Years of current Night Flight Rules

The reason given by the Government for extending the present restrictions to 2017 is to enable the next Government to review them in the light of any recommendations from the Airports Commission. It seems unlikely the Commission’s report in 2015 on long term capacity will compromise a decision taken now to reduce the noise over a 5 year regime starting no later than 2015.


We say steps should be taken to revise the Heathrow regime now, in time for further consultation and decision before the general election in 2015, with implementation no later than October 2015 for a 5 year term.

3. Plans for More Flights before 6am

Subsequent to the publication of the Stage 2 consultation, the Airports Commission recommended that the number of movements permitted before 6am should be increased from its current limit of 16 so as to alleviate congestion and planes queuing in arrival stacks after 6am, and that this should be trialled by 2015 at the latest.


We say there should be no additional flights before 6am, even for a trial period. Reducing stack sizes and reducing the need to use both runways can be achieved by managing flight arrival times and smoothing schedules later in the day rather than increasing average night noise and early flight arrivals before 6am.


Night Flying Restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Stage 1 Consultation (April 2013)

This Stage 1 Consultation was an open call for evidence to inform the development of proposals for the next Night Flights regime, and also to inform the work of the Airports Commission.

The DfT has now started analysing the responses and issue a Stage 2 consultation later this year. The new regime should be announced by spring 2014.

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign submitted a comprehensive response to the DfT, and also a Guide to 23 key questions which affect Richmond.

Overall, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign proposed a ban on all night flights, beginning with those between 11pm and 6am. In our view there is no credible economic justification for such flights. In particular, there is nothing unique or essential about the current sixteen or so flights which arrive each morning before 6am. There is daytime capacity for additional flights to replace any lost through a ban.

We therefore:

  • Requested a commitment that operations at Heathrow Airport will move towards compliance with World Health Organisation Guidelines on noise for each hour of the full eight hour night period (11pm to 7am).
  • Asked for the Stage 2 consultation to include the option of a complete ban on flights before 6am within two years.