Airports are investing millions in sound insulation

Aviation is vital for Switzerland's economy and its people. An extensive network of flights to the world's major cities ensures Switzerland remains internationally connected. This results in exposure to noise in the vicinity of airports. To protect local residents from excessive air traffic noise, the airports and airlines are investing substantial sums of money in sound insulation measures.

Less noise thanks to innovative aircraft technologies

The most important initiative is reducing noise at source (active noise abatement) by deploying the latest noise-reducing aircraft designs. As a result, each new generation of aircraft helps to lower noise emissions. For instance, in 2018 SWISS International Air Lines, which operates a hub at Zurich Airport, will be renewing its European fleet with noise-optimised and energy-efficient Bombardier C Series aircraft. The existing Airbus A320 is also set to be replaced by the quieter Airbus A320neo from 2019. Noise and pollutant emissions are greatly reduced with this new generation of aircraft. EasyJet Switzerland is also planning to roll out the A320neo.

Airports incentivise with noise-related charging models

By basing their landing charges on noise emissions, Swiss airports incentivise airlines to deploy quieter aircraft on routes to and from Switzerland. To increase these incentives during the more noise-sensitive night hours, the international airports also levy night noise charges. All income from noise charges is earmarked specifically for measures to protect local residents from excessive air traffic noise.

Airports are investing in sound insulation measures

Despite a significant increase in flight movements, together these measures have led to a marked reduction in noise exposure. In areas where noise emission limits are exceeded, since 2000 Flughafen Zürich AG has been installing sound-insulating windows in noise-sensitive rooms, or reimbursing owners who have already installed such sound-insulating windows. To date, Flughafen Zürich AG has invested some CHF 220 million in passive noise insulation. A total of around CHF 340 million will be spent on passive sound insulation measures at Zurich Airport. Since 2005, Geneva Airport has invested CHF 54 million in noise insulation, with a further CHF 87 million to follow in the coming years. Noise emissions from EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg do not exceed currently applicable noise limits in Switzerland. It is therefore not obliged to implement sound insulation measures. It has nonetheless indicated its willingness to help finance appropriate measures in individual cases.

Equal noise protection treatment for all transport services

The noise limits for aviation are specified in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and in the Federal Noise Abatement Ordinance (LSV). The LSV also applies to road and rail transport. However, in some cases less strict limits apply for these two forms of transport. For instance, only the aviation industry is required to measure the equivalent continuous sound level over an hour – the 1-h LEQ level – during the night.

Conclusions

  • The top priority is to reduce noise at source: airlines are investing heavily in quieter aircraft.
  • By levying noise-related landing charges, airlines are incentivising the deployment of quieter aircraft.
  • Swiss airports are investing hundreds of millions of Swiss francs in sound insulation measures.
  • All modes of transport should be treated equally when setting noise limits. Aviation must not be disadvantaged.
  • The Confederation's Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan (SAIP) and the cantonal development plans must be coordinated to enable the airports to develop in line with demand.