By Rhys Jones
LONDON, May 30 (Reuters) - Airlines found guilty of breaking noise limits at Heathrow airport will face bigger fines and will be named and shamed by the London hub as it seeks to win more public support for a controversial expansion.
Europe’s busiest airport plans to “significantly increase” the fines it imposes on airlines that break its day and night noise limits, it said in a report released on Thursday, part of its efforts to gain approval for expansion.
Fines for carriers that break maximum noise levels, which differ according to the time of day, range from 500 to 1000 pounds ($1,500) per case. Fewer decibels are allowed during the night.
Heathrow’s two biggest airlines are British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, but it is also used heavily by major flag carriers like Lufthansa, Air France and Emirates.
The two-runway hub, operated by Heathrow Ltd, said it would also rank the 80 airlines that use the airport according to how much noise their jets make during take-off and publish a league table every three months, starting later this summer.
Noise produced by airlines using Heathrow affects some 700,000 local residents, according to Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority, more than any other airport in Europe. The impact on local people has held back the airport’s campaign for expansion.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative-led coalition government bowed to pressure from local residents and protest groups concerned about the environmental impact of a Heathrow expansion when it came to power in 2010 by scrapping plans to build a third runway.
The government’s commission on airport capacity, chaired by Howard Davies, is due to report in mid-2015, the next chance for Heathrow to put its case for allowing the third runway.
“Before the Airports Commission reports in the summer of 2015 we will need to be able to demonstrate that Heathrow can grow quietly,” said Heathrow Chief Executive Colin Matthews.
“There will not be a choice between more flights or less noise, we will need to deliver both.”
Matthews said Heathrow was “significantly quieter” than it was in the 1970s and that the situation would improve further as a new generation of quieter, more fuel efficient jets, such as Boeing’s 787, are used by more carriers.
Heathrow said it was also studying the possibility of planes arriving at the airport making steeper descents to avoid flying as close to residential areas.
Earlier this month Parliament’s Transport Committee threw its weight behind the expansion of Ferrovial-owned Heathrow , saying a third or even fourth runway should be built.