Accord on how to spread Zaventem flights

Belgian ministers have clinched a deal on how to spread the flights to and from Brussels Airport in Zaventem, a political hot potato which has been stirring unrest for years. The federal State Secretary responsible for Mobility, Etienne Schouppe, claims that the deal is to the benefit of everyone and hopes that it will put an end to years of discussion.

Flight procedures, the use of runways and noise pollution regulations will be transformed into new legislation. In the past, the exceeding of noise pollution levels - which are different according to the area - led to local residents and pressure groups starting court cases. Mr Schouppe (Flemish Christian Democrat, small photo) hopes that the new accord will stop the unrest. 

The direction and strength of the wind will determine which runways will be used, Mr Schouppe explains. "This seems the best to guarantee a proper functioning of Zaventem in future."

The federal government argues that it is safer to for planes to take off against the wind. This also makes that planes gain altitude at a higher pace, which should reduce noise pollution and fuel consumption. This is good for the environment.

Critics say that due to the predominant southwesterly winds, flight routes will often be the same, and noise pollution will no be equally spread as a consequence. "We have done our best to reach a deal which is for the best of everyone, and have taken into account the density of population of the areas concerned" Mr Schouppe says. "We will have more planes fly over the canal instead of the city, we will reduce the number of night flights and noisy planes."

The accord means that it will no longer be an individual minster who has to decide on flight routes. Everything will now be determined by new legislation.