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Our noise strategy

The Government’s overall policy on aviation noise is “to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise as part of a policy of sharing benefits of noise reduction with industry in support of sustainable development”. We are supportive of this policy that aims to balance the economic, social and environmental impacts of aviation.

For many years our noise strategy and approach have been structured around the ICAO Balanced Approach. Within this framework we have been at the forefront of efforts to tackle noise, consistently seeking to identify and implement good practice. Consequently, Heathrow’s noise footprint (the contour area of noise exposure shown on a map) has shrunk considerably over the past few decades.

Nevertheless, we recognise that noise remains an issue and over the past decade our approach to noise management has included working more closely with community stakeholders. This approach is underpinned by principles of stakeholder collaboration and transparency. This section describes some of the approaches and methods we currently have in place for managing noise.

Information relating to how the airport operates can be found here on our website and in the Heathrow Operations Handbook.

Our sustainability leadership plan – Heathrow 2.0

Our sustainability leadership plan Heathrow 2.0, sets out a clear sustainability vision and goals for Heathrow. It covers a wide range of issues in relation to noise management. Our goal is to limit and where possible reduce the number of people highly sleep disturbed and highly annoyed compared to 2019.

Our Noise Action Plan

Although Heathrow 2.0 sets out at a high level our approach to managing noise, our Noise Action Plan provides the finer detail and context.

Our Noise Action Plan is summarised below. It is based around the framework set out in the ICAO Balanced Approach, supplemented with our focus on improving the way in which we communicate and engage with local communities. This last element we see as pivotal in helping us understand and address key priorities for local people.

As aircraft and technology improves and planes become quieter, we will continue to work to ensure that residents share in the benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide a strong financial incentive for airlines to use the quietest planes currently available, including in the early morning period, through the use of variable landing charges.

We are committed to taking full advantage of opportunities to manage airspace differently, working with local communities to identify changes that could benefit them. This will include trialling new airspace management procedure to test the concept of providing predictable periods of respite from early morning arrivals and for some of our departure routes.

We are committed to continuing to help with noise insulation and mitigation through a range of schemes. We will also continue to press the Government to provide more detailed guidance on planning around airports, and to restrict noise sensitive development in high noise areas.

In line with principles of the ICAO Balanced Approach we do not see restrictions as a first resort and are committed to developing collaborative approaches which are often quicker to implement and more effective. For example the voluntary agreement with airlines not to schedule marginally compliant aircraft. Where restrictions are in place we are focused on ensuring that they are adhered to fully, for example in our administration of the night flying restrictions.

Underpinning all of our work to tackle aircraft noise, we are committed to engaging openly and constructively with local communities to understand their concerns and to provide accessible information and an on-going dialogue.

The Noise Action Plan provides information in relation to existing noise management activities and the regulatory context within which Heathrow operates. It does not include actions to specifically address expansion or airspace change since neither of these have the necessary approvals. Although the Noise Action Plan can only relate to the impact of the current operations or permitted developments, our strategic approach is consistent whether we are considering current or future operations.

More Information

Further information is available on our Noise Action Plan page.

The Quiet Night Charter 2018

While Heathrow has some of the strictest restrictions of any hub airport in terms of movements permitted between 11:30pm and 6:00am,  we know that flights operating in the night period can be disruptive for local communities and so we are always looking at ways to improve how the airport operates. 

To help address this, we produced a Quiet Night Charter. The charter was developed to identify voluntary initiatives to improve the performance of our operations and reduce the overall impact of unscheduled night movements on our local communities.

The charter means Heathrow and its partners - NATS air traffic controllers, Airline Operators Committee, Airports Coordination Limited (responsible for slot allocation), British Airways and Virgin Airlines - work more closely together to deliver improvements in night-time operations and noise management. 

To achieve a greater number of aircraft arriving and departing on time throughout the day to reduce the knock-on effect of later flights in the night period. 

To provide more certainty to our local communities about periods of respite from aircraft noise.

To reduce and mitigate noise from aircraft arriving and departing at night.