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Liege could be the big winner from a proposed night flight ban at Brussels Airport, outlined in a draft decree that has left the Belgian gateway fuming.

On Friday, Belgium’s transport minister, Georges Gilkinet, presented the draft decree’s proposals, which include a ban on night flights between 11pm and 6am, aimed at limiting environmental and noise pollution from the airport.

Currently the airport is allowed a maximum of 16,000 night slots a year, including up to 5,000 night take-offs. In 2022, there were 1,711 freighter movements at the airport – down 15% on the year before.

With freighters more likely to operate at night than passenger carriers, Brussels Airport’s cargo business will be most affected by the ban. And it would be Liege’s second big business boost from major hubs, after slot losses at Schiphol saw cargo traffic divert to Liege.

The airport described the proposal as “far-reaching”, and one which would have “unprecedented negative consequences” across the entire economy.

It added: “The airport, aviation industry and residents do not benefit from launching such drastic and unsupported proposals. They only give rise to uncertainty, anxiety and polarisation.

“What the airport, the industry and residents need is a global solution and a coherent legal framework that provides stability and legal certainty for sustainable development.”

Sustainability group Bond Beter Leefmilieu welcomed the proposals, however, pointing out that other European gateways were “further ahead on the environment curve”, and claimed the only loser would be DHL’s just-in-time operating model.

But, given that the logistics giant alone is responsible for 1,600 airport employees, there are mounting worries over major job losses. Belgium’s liberal OpenVLD party reportedly claimed 14,000 direct and indirect jobs would be at risk, while the chamber of commerce called the plan “madness”.

“Brussels Airport is an essential gateway to the world for citizens, businesses and countless institutions and is the second growth engine in Belgium, providing direct and indirect employment to 64,000 people and accounting for 2% of the GDP,” the airport said. “It’s also a vital logistics hub for numerous exporting companies and industries, including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and perishables.”

Meanwhile, Liege has in recent years grown to be a major contender on the European freight scene, one source telling The Loadstar it was now “the region’s main freighter gateway”.

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