Residents say delayed late night Heathrow flights make sleep ‘impossible’

·3-min read

Residents living under Heathrow’s flight paths are being kept awake until after midnight by an increase in late running night flights due to disruption across the aviation sector.

The west London airport apologised to people suffering “greater disturbance” as more aircraft are arriving and departing later than planned.

Heathrow does not have any scheduled departures between 10.50pm and 6am, or scheduled arrivals between 10.55pm and 4.40am, but take-offs and landings occur within those periods when planes are delayed.

Baggage reclaim at Heathrow
Heathrow has suffered disruption in recent months, including problems with baggage handling (Adam Kent/PA)

Flight punctuality has plummeted in recent months as airlines and airports struggle to cope with the spike in demand for travel.

On Saturday night three aircraft arrived at Heathrow after midnight.

The latest was a British Airways flight from Kalamata, Greece which touched down at 12.31am, more than two hours behind schedule.

Overflown residents were given little respite, as the first flight scheduled for Sunday morning arrived at 4.33am.

A 49-year-old woman who did not want to be named said her sleep has been severely disrupted as departing low-altitude aircraft have “a huge impact on those of us that are now directly under a flight path”.

The woman, who lives in Sunningdale, Berkshire, 10 miles from Heathrow, told the PA news agency: “Constant delayed late evening flights make it impossible to sleep before midnight.

“I generally go to bed much later now. It has definitely got worse in the last three months.

“There is no consideration and no effort from the airlines to get aircraft higher when there is less traffic in the sky.

“My fear is if the Government give the go ahead for night flights on a temporary basis throughout the summer it may become the norm, which would just be unbearable.”

A 50-year-old man from Warlingham, Surrey, 20 miles from the airport, said the rise in the number of late-running night flights “started fairly gradually and has just ramped up”.

The flights extend disturbance suffered by overflown communities “until unacceptable hours”, said the man, who also wanted to remain anonymous.

“The noise and vibration can be heard and felt through the house.

“As it’s been so warm in the evenings the windows have been open, exacerbating the issues and disturbing me when trying to get to sleep.”

John Stewart, who chairs anti-aircraft noise group Hacan, said Heathrow reduced the number of late night flights but “it is now slipping back because of the chaos during the day”.

He added: “Residents across a very wide area are paying the price for this.”

Heathrow said in a statement: “We apologise for the recent increase in late running flights, which mean that our local communities are facing greater disturbance.

“We understand the impact of night noise and we are continuing to take action wherever possible to improve our operational performance.

“Unfortunately, a combination of closed or restricted airspace and resourcing pressures within the wider aviation community means we face an exceptionally challenging summer season.

“Heathrow has made significant progress over time in tackling late runners and we remain committed to that in the longer term.”

There is a Government-imposed annual limit on the number of flights at Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am.

Night flights are a vital source of income for Heathrow, but academic studies have indicated there is a link between long-term noise from flights at unsociable hours and poor health.

There has been speculation that the Government is considering easing night flight restrictions to reduce disruption to passengers during the peak summer holiday season.

But a Department for Transport spokesman insisted there are “no plans to change the overall night flight quotas allotted to airports”, and any amendment would be subject to consultation.

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