Productivity Commission finds Sydney Airport curfew is creating problems

Productivity Commission finds Sydney Airport curfew is creating problems
Terminal 3 of Sydney Airport. Photo: Kgbo, Wikimedia Commons

A report from the Productivity Commission has found that Sydney Airport’s curfew is actually creating more noise pollution. Restrictions regarding aircraft movements and the curfew are reportedly undermining the airport’s efficiency.

The report outlines that the curfew accentuates unexpected flight delays, ironically creating more noise pollution. The curfew laws were passed by the Australian Parliament in 1995 in an attempt to reduce noise pollution. Currently, no aircraft is permitted to take off or land between the hours of 11pm and 6am. On top of the curfew, Sydney Airport has a cap of 80 aircraft movements per hour, which has caused further problems during peak hour travel times.

While the report does not recommend removing the curfew, as this would be politically contentious given the electorates affected, it does suggest amending the current cap on aircraft movements. Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces an uphill battle in the polls, so it’s unlikely the Government will introduce serious reform so as to not upset key electorates in the flight path. Because aircraft cannot take off or land at certain times, the airport is consistently encountering bottlenecks, which actually creates further cost to the airport. Likewise, it disrupts passenger schedules.

The curfew has also proven problematic when flights arrive prior to their scheduled landing. Sometimes, the plane has to circulate in the air for a period of time before being permitted to use the runways for landing.  The Productivity Commission has suggested that this scenario creates unnecessary noise pollution and has recommended possible changes to the movement cap in an attempt to bolster efficiency.

Construction has begun on Sydney’s second airport, which will be located in the suburb of Badgery’s Creek. Building of the site is forecasted to finish in December 2026. Known as Sydney West Airport or the Western Sydney Airport, the commission has recommended that this airport should operate curfew-free.

Despite its recommendations, the Productivity Commission maintains that Sydney Airport operates efficiently and has not exercised market power at the expense of consumers and local communities.