Bloomberg News

Frankfurt 17 Night Flight Rule May Be Lifted, Top Court Says

March 13, 2012

The state of Hesse’s plan to allow 17 nights flights on a new Frankfurt airport runway may face additional reviews after a German court said local residents and communities weren’t adequately heard on the issue.

Residents who challenged Fraport AG (FRA)’s expansion and night flights may win that part of the case on procedural grounds, Presiding Judge Ruediger Rubel said at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig today. The state would have to grant the plaintiffs a new hearing and issue a new decision. The court’s assessment is preliminary and may change after hearing arguments, he said.

“The court’s task isn’t to make its own planning decisions, it’s rather to review whether the authorities’ planning violated rights,” Rubel said when opening the hearing. “The law grants the authorities a wide leeway and it’s not our task to come up with better ideas to substitute those of the competent planning body.”

The runway and night flights were challenged by local residents, neighboring cities and businesses. The state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is located, in 2007 approved Fraport’s plan to build an additional runway and a third terminal, enabling Europe’s No. 3 airport to handle more flights. The state allowed an average of 150 night flights and capped the number between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. at 17.

Noise Concerns

A lower court approved the extension in 2009 while asking the state of Hesse to review its decision on night flights because of noise concerns. While allowing the runway to be completed and used while the case is pending, in October the lower court temporarily halted flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. because it said the residents were likely to prevail on that part of their case.

The state of Hesse, the target of the lawsuit, defends the project, including the 17 night flights, and is supported by Fraport, which is participating in the case.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) had lost a separate bid in the lower court to expand the number on flights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. It has asked the top court for permission to appeal and Leipzig judges still have to decide on that request. Lufthansa, TUI AG (TUI1) and Thomas Cook AG’s Condor are affected by the current preliminary ban on night flights, according to Fraport.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karin Matussek in Leipzig via kmatussek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons in London at aaarons@Bloomberg.net


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