Bluebird Cargo Landing at Liege Photo 151500353 © Jozsef Soos

Wallonia’s state government has lessened the severity of a planned permit system at Liege Airport, following complaints from the cargo community.

The French-speaking region of Belgium announced its Environmental Operating Permit in August to limit flights to 50,000 a year but, following a successful appeal, lifted it to 55,000, excluding those carrying less than 34 tonnes of cargo or fewer than 19 passengers.

A spokesperson for the Belgian gateway told The Loadstar: “Wallonia’s government paid particular attention to the socio-economic and employment impact of the initial restrictions.

“Liege never had a slot system and operates around the clock, so the original permit would have had a notable negative impact on us, but the government listened to our appeal and the new permit system is better than the old one, which was just too constraining.”

The Walloon government said its decision was made on the basis of allowing the continuation of economic development that was brought to the region by the airport.

An industry source told The Loadstar that, while it would be incorrect to state the airport’s major customers – including Challenge and FedEx – were “happy” with the permit system, they were content with the amended restrictions and had gotten “on board”.

Liege Airport claimed the initial reduction would have forced it “to drastically and rapidly reduce” its activities, which would have put its development in jeopardy.

“An application of the permit in its current form would in 2040 reduce the cargo volumes handled last year by about 60%, and by 80% compared with the Business Plan 2020-2040,” it had warned.

Even with the amendment, the spokesperson confirmed that its 2020 business plan, that had made provision for some 70,000 movements annually by 2040, needed “updating”.

Alongside the restrictions on movements, the permit also places limitations on aircraft, based on noise, with a phased reduction of planes that exceed the noise quota to be set by legislation, with an initial limit of 30 from 2024, dropping to 13 by 2023.

CEO Laurent Jossart explained: “With the help of Sowaer [the airport development company], our environmental policy has been in place for several years now, and has included massive buyouts and soundproofing of buildings, renewable energies, energy savings, quieter aircraft, etc.

“Let’s do everything we can to decarbonise aviation. Let’s act from within and develop our multimodal collaborations to replace air travel whenever possible.

“Our airport site is continuing its exchanges with logistics partners in this direction. Let’s build a greener airport together and transform our economy towards ever more sustainability.”

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