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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Q&A: Night flights

All night flights in the United Kingdom could be banned after a landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights. The court backed a claim by a group of Heathrow residents that the noise of the planes breached their right to a good night's sleep.

The BBC's transport reporter Andrew Winstanley answered our questions on the implications of this ruling.

What does this decision mean?

From today the government is obliged to ban all night flights into and from Heathrow, Stanstead and Gatwick. That means that no aircraft can take off or land between 11pm and 6am.

Is this a big blow for the airline industry?

The airline industry has been in decline anyway, with British Airways and Virgin cutting jobs, so this is probably the last thing they need.

What action will they have to take?

Aircraft carriers will face difficulties because certain flights need to come in early in the morning, especially transatlantic flights and flights from Asia into Heathrow, and even flights from Europe into Gatwick. They are going to have to move those flight landing times to after 6am, which is obviously going cause problems the other end where they are taking off from.

How many flights are affected?

If you're talking about Heathrow, about 16 flights fall within this banned time but Gatwick has a bigger problem because they have 50 night flights.

Will this decision affect other UK and European airports?


It does set a precedent for airports not only in the UK but across Europe

Andrew Winstanley
It does set a precedent for airports not only in the UK but across Europe. Basically, any residents living underneath a flight path could use this precedent, go to the European court and perhaps win a victory.

When are we likely to see changes?

It's almost impossible to say. Today's ruling today is already in place so as the situations stands the government is in breach of the ruling by not enforcing a night flight ban immediately from this evening.

The protesters will certainly be hoping to get this sorted out by the end of the year. I think to be honest logistically that could be difficult, I suspect perhaps we'll see them move on this next year.

Will there be an appeal?

There is an appeals process in the court of human rights but my understanding is that appeals are extremely rare. So I think you can expect the government to think about this long and hard and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they decided not to do so.

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