23rd April 2013

Majority of night flights unnecessary, says campaign group

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called for night flights to be progressively phased out at Stansted Airport so as to reduce sleep disturbance for local communities.

The call for an end to night flights is part of a 10,000 word submission sent by the campaign group to the Government highlighting the particular disturbance caused by night flights at Stansted because of its rural location where background noise levels are generally very low.

The Government is currently re-assessing the need for night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports with a view to introducing new rules and restrictions from October next year.

An independent study carried out last year showed that the cost to business of a ban on night flights at Heathrow would be outweighed by savings made through the reduced costs of sleep disturbance and stress caused by night flight noise. SSE believes this would also be the case at Stansted where the vast majority of night flights are not business related and do not need to operate during the night. A progressive phasing out of night flights would also bring economic benefits.

SSE’s submission also highlights the medical evidence showing that sleep disturbance may well have an effect on cardiovascular health in relation to such conditions as ischaemic heart disease and hypertension.

Another study cited by SSE highlights the adverse impact of night flights on the education of children, showing that sleep disturbance can seriously harm a child’s performance at school.

Martin Peachey, SSE’s noise adviser, commented: “The health issues associated with night flights are well known but there is also an economic downside to night flights. Many of those whose sleep is disturbed by noisy aircraft at night do vitally important jobs for the UK economy and society. The adverse economic impacts have been consistently underestimated and it’s time for the Government to set down a firm timetable for phasing out night flights.”

As part of the Government’s re-assessment of night flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, a two-stage consultation is underway. The first stage ended on 22 April and the second stage will take place later this year.


  • Stansted is currently allowed 12,000 flights a year between 11.30pm and 6.00am – on average, 33 per night. This is more than twice as many as allowed at Heathrow even though Heathrow is four times bigger than Stansted, in terms of flights and passenger numbers. The actual number of night flights at Stansted last year was just over 8,000. SSE wants the new cap to be well below this figure.
  • The economic assessment of a Heathrow night flights ban, referred to above, can be found here.
  • SSE’s submission also argues that those living in the vicinity of Stansted and under its flight paths should have the right to an uninterrupted night’s sleep, which should mean a full 8 hours and not just the 6½ hours covered by the current restrictions on night flights.
  • The submission also calls for an immediate ban on aircraft using reverse thrust at night except in emergencies.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits