Derisory surcharges for Friday night late jet takeoffs

Last Friday night the final two jet aircraft to depart, one a big noisy commercial airliner, the other a small business jet, paid the same CHF 400 late departure surcharge.

On Friday evening, when the residents of Bellevue, Genthod and Versoix heard the takeoff of the very noisy Air Mauritius flight at 22h45 they might have checked the airport Web site and seen that there were no more takeoffs on the list. Hooray, we can go to bed with the windows opened!

The disenchantment then would have come with the departure almost an hour later of a Citation 560XL business jet operated by Speedwings SA. It is an unfortunate fact that such departures, although classed as commercial, are not announced at all to the general public. The same was true of the Citation 510, of LEA (London Executive Aviation), which took off at 23h32 the previous night: also the last takeoff of the evening.

Charter flights may or may not be announced: the Dornier 328 jet, belonging to and operated by Sun Air of Scandinavia (but painted in the colours of British Airways), left on Thursday just before the LEA plane but was not listed.

Jet aircraft which take off after 22h have to pay a special surcharge which depends on their noise class and the corresponding half-hour time slot. In a future blog I will talk about these surcharges and noise classes!

In this case, both aircraft would have paid the sane amount: 400 Swiss Francs. The minimum such charge is just 50 Swiss Francs, for a class V aircraft between 22h and 22h30. However, this charge tends to double for each subsequent half-hour time slot and each noise class: the Air Mauritius aircraft is class III.

This noise surcharge is supposed to encourage the airlines to use quiet aircraft and to schedule take-offs before 22h (as requested in the regulations of the Swiss Civil Aviation Office, OFAC). However, this is arguably wishful thinking. For both the Airbus of Air Mauritius, carrying 300 passengers, each paying around 1000 Swiss Francs, and the Citation 560XL, hired by a small number of relatively well-off persons and probably costing tens of thousands of Swiss Francs, it is just small change! This same description of small change would equally apply if this surcharge were to be divided amongst all of the people under the flight path.

The official statistics for Geneva airport for 2009 indicate that small business jets carry, on average, less than two passengers per flight. In the case of the Citation 560XL, the Wikipedia information site indicates that it can carry at most 10 passengers. Curiously, this same Wikipedia article states specifically that it is used in Switzerland by the Swiss Air Force. It is not clear to me how to mount cannons, rockets or machine guns under the wings of this aircraft :-)

When questioned about such late departures, the anglo-saxon companies, including LEA, are often apologetic, saying that they do ask their clients to be reasonable, they do know the OFAC recommendations and (frequently) may say that the problem was the late arrival of passengers. Swiss companies, however, tend to restrict themselves to saying that the regulations permit scheduling takeoffs up until midnight. In no cases will the scheduled departure time be given.

This attitude of "the rules are the rules" tends to be less favoured by the airport and airlines when an incoming late flight has to be diverted to Lyon because it cannot land before the official 00h30 closure time specified by OFAC. The argument then is for "flexibility"! This argument conveniently forgets the already generous flexibility allowance of 30 minutes after midnight for arrivals which are behind schedule (almost all of which would have at least two hours delay on their schedule).

As the old saying goes

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

22:52 Posted in Noisy aircraft | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: mauritius, geneva, airport, noise, surcharge, speedwings, business, jet | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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