Heathrow to "name and shame" noisy and dirty airlines

With poor air quality and night-time aircraft noise being major obstacles to approval for a third runway, Heathrow has decided to "name and shame" the airlines exacerbating the problems by publishing a league table every three months. 

The airport hopes that the tables will encourage airlines to clean up their act. Heathrow is aware that desperate measures are needed as politicians will find it extremely difficult to approve a third runway and 260,000 more flights if targets cannot be met with two runways and less than 480,000 flights (the current flight cap).   

Aircraft fly low over Cranford on their approach to the northern runway

Aircraft fly low over Cranford on their approach to the northern runway


At the moment, 24 of the 50 large airlines using Heathrow are failing to meet restrictions on night flights, noise or emissions. 

Seven of the 50 airlines violated rules on night flights by landing after 11.30pm or before 4.30am without special dispensation to do so. 

To encourage airlines to make improvements, the airport makes carriers with the highest emission pay higher landing charges. However, such penalties haven't made much difference to pollution levels, which breach EU limits, so even if a runway were built it would be unusable. Only a fool would invest in a major runway development with little prospect of it making a decent return.

Heathrow has always blamed road traffic for pollution (and claimed that this is not their problem) but this move to expose the worse polluters in the airline industry, shows that it realises that aircraft emissions are something that must be tackled if air quality is to be improved. 

The airport does not even acknowledge that its aircraft are noisy and prefers to indicate that aircraft are quiet by referring to making them quieter not less noisy. In keeping with this, Heathrow introduced a Fly Quiet programme to encourage the use of procedures to reduce noise. 

That noise programme now includes the emissions tables exposing the filthiest airlines so, in true Heathrow style, it has been renamed the Fly Quiet and Clean programme.

So who are the worse offenders in the first table? El Al, the Israeli flag carrier, came bottom after falling short on five out of seven measures, including noise, nitrogen oxides (NO2) emissions, efficient landing approaches and late arrivals. 

It was followed by Kuwait Airways (49th), Middle East Airlines (48th) and Pakistan International Airlines (47th). Other dirty airlines were Oman Air, the Indian-based Jet Airways, Turkish Airlines and Air India. 

Airlines that had the best results across the seven measures were: British Airways - short-haul (1st), Are Lingus (2nd), Etihad Airways (3rd) and Scandinavian Airlines System (4th). 

While we wait for airlines to make changes to improve their rankings on the table, we continue to breathe high levels of toxic pollution and endure unnecessary aircraft noise. 


It is estimated that 725,000 people live under existing flight paths close to Heathrow - far more than any airport in western Europe.