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Banning night flights could produce large financial savings

Banning night flights could produce large financial savings

New research on a major UK airport (Heathrow) has estimated that a night-time ban on flights could produce up to lb860 million (EUR1 billion) in financial savings over a 20 year period. Economic costs caused by the ban could be outweighed by savings from reduced health costs of sleep disturbance and stress caused by the noise of night flights.

The UK government has restricted the number of night flights (between 11.30 pm and 6.00 am) at Heathrow to 5,800 a year (approx 16 per night). It is now reviewing this limit. The study estimated the impact to society by identifying three possible combinations of actions by airlines and passengers:

  1. All night flights are rescheduled to the day and passengers opt for a daytime flight
  2. All night flights are rescheduled to the day with 65 per cent of passengers (those who terminate at Heathrow) accepting another arrival time, whilst the remaining 35 per cent of passengers (who are transfer passengers) no longer stop there.
  3. All night flights are cancelled and are not rescheduled
The research assessed the economic costs and benefits of the three possible scenarios from 2013 to 2023. It estimated that the first alternative - where flights were rescheduled and passengers continued to fly but at different times - would produce a total saving of lb572 million (EUR673 million). This is mainly the result of the high value placed on noise reduction, which had an estimated benefit of lb821.7 million (EUR966 million). Changes in frequency of flights and travel times i.e. people not being able to fly on their desired time caused a loss of lb250.1 million (EUR294 million).

For the second alternative, where only terminating passengers continue to fly, the effects add up to a saving of lb860 million (EUR1 billion). Again this was mainly from the benefits of noise reduction (worth lb821.7 million (EUR966 million)). Costs from changes in frequency and times of flights were not as large as these are greatest for transferring passengers and in this scenario they no longer fly. However, there was a greater cost to airline profits.

In the third scenario it is estimated there would be a very large loss in tourism (worth lb831.7 million (EUR978 million)) and a loss in airline profits (lb66.8 million (EUR78.6 million), which counteracts the lb821.7 million gain from noise reduction. The net result is an estimated loss of lb35.2 million (EUR41.4 million). However, this scenario is very unlikely.

Several economic costs were not included as they were difficult to value, such as non-aviation revenues from shops and car hire, effects on employment and effects on profits from air passenger duty. If they were included the outcome could have been less positive. In addition, the gains are largely from noise reduction benefits and the researchers stress that the value of noise reduction varies with the valuation method. The study used a valuation based partly on annoyance, but if it was based on blood pressure then the benefits would be considerably less, for example, the benefits of the second situation would drop from lb856 million to lb40.1 million. The researchers recommend studying the benefits of noise reductions in more detail.

Source: Korteland, M. & Faber, J. (2011) Ban on night flights at Heathrow Airport: A quick scan Social Cost Benefit Analysis. CE Delft publication commissioned by HACAN ClearSkies. Downloadable from here

Contact: ce@ce.nl

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