Keep your airports operating at night like we do, India tells European countries

India has asked the West to reconsider its policy of shutting airports at night. At the recently concluded International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) meet in Montreal, civil aviation secretary Ashok Chawla pointed out to western nations that if India too was to impose night curfews at its airports, planes that depart from Asian countries late in the evening or at night and transit through India to reach Europe in the morning would be unable to do, while those flying eastward would have to leave Europe at night to reach here when airports open in the morning.

Western airports shut down operations at night because of concerns over the quality of life for residents living close to the airports. But in India too, citizens' groups are increasingly raising concerns about noise pollution troubling people living near airports. At present, a majority of international flights arrive in India between 9 pm and 3 am.

Both the US and the UK are learnt to have agreed to consider the demand, though European countries have opposed it, owing to local laws.

Chawla also told the ICAO general assembly that keeping airports closed for about eight hours a day meant higher levels of pollution for western cities. Instead of arriving and departing over a 24-hour period, if all flight movement happens in about 16 hours, it means more concentrated emissions and higher pollution for the city where the airport is located.

Westbound international flights leave India between 9 pm and 3 am, so that they can reach Europe when airports are opening in the morning. Westbound flights cannot leave India in the late afternoon or evening, as they would reach Europe when airports are under night curfew. This means sleepless nights for Europe-bound travellers, especially the majority that travels economy class.

India's demand is not to cause noise pollution for Europeans. New aircraft, especially the Airbus A380 super jumbo and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, have much lower noise levels, and night operations can be restricted to these planes.