The temporary ban on night movements at London Luton Airport this summer was “strange and challenging,” according to Harrods Aviation, which runs a busy FBO Luton and London Stansted Airport. Free movement “without slot restriction” returned on October 1 after a nighttime ban that started on June 1.
In March, London Luton Airport operations director Neil Thompson explained the rationale for the move, saying, “We have marginally exceeded our nighttime noise contour by 1.5 square kilometers…to make sure we address this and reduce our night time noise footprint we’re taking immediate steps. This will include a stop on additional nighttime flights, a ban on ad-hoc flights during the night period, and preventing operators from rescheduling existing flights from the day to the night.”
The ban covered the hours between 11 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. local time and is set to operate every summer. Aircraft with a noise level greater than Quota Count 1 (QC1)—above 92.9 EPNdB, based on sensor points around the airport, including some portable units—will also not be able to operate between the restriction hours, even if they are scheduled operations, starting June 1, 2019. Also, between 6 a.m. and 9:59 p.m. no aircraft above QC1 will be permitted a slot at all and revision of slots in this time period will not be permitted.
A statement from Harrods Aviation said customers had returned quickly to its Luton FBO, “highlighting how important it is to offer 24/7 access.” Kerry Besgrove, Harrods Aviation director of operations, reflected, “It has been a strange summer for us. Many of our customers want the ability to work into the evening or to be in the city in the early morning. The ability to utilize nighttime operations is vital to support the global customer community.”
Will Holroyd, Harrods Aviation sales and marketing director, thanked FBOs at other airports for assisting its customers during the ban, which saw a complete restriction on unscheduled flights while airline flights faced restricted numbers. “We would like to thank our fellow Air Elite FBO, XLR Jet Center in Birmingham, for supporting us operationally during this period,” he said. Holroydalso recognized the flexibility of customers who “often had to change schedules and itineraries to comply with the temporary ban.”
Luton is 32 miles north of the center of London but is still the city’s most popular airport for business aviation. However, while business aviation airports such as Biggin Hill and TAG Farnborough do not have 24/7 opening, Luton has also become more difficult for business aviation in recent years due to the rapid growth of budget airline and charter traffic. This has made it particularly difficult to obtain peak-time slots.
According to PrivateFly, the online charter broker recently sold to Directional Capital, the nighttime ban at Luton followed “a noise contour breach.” It described Luton’s normal 24-hour availability to business aviation as “a major benefit especially for ‘go-now’ last-minute flights.”
The restrictions also came alongside intermittent closures of RAF Northolt due to “lower investment and staffing over the past year or so” which has “made it difficult to secure a slot [there] for private jet flights,” said PrivateFly.
At London Stansted, night quota restrictions exist from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. as part of a government scheme that also covers Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.