Pressure to lift airport curfew

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti is urging a review of the cap on the number of flights per hour at Sydney Airport as a debate is set to heat up about making better use of the airport.

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti is urging a review of the cap on the number of flights per hour at Sydney Airport as a debate is set to heat up about making better use of the airport.

The Coalition has proposed a rethink on allowing business and charter aircraft to take off and land during the present overnight curfew.

Mr Borghetti said it made sense to also reconsider relaxing the hourly flight cap and the so-called shoulder periods between 5am and 6am and 11pm and midnight.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has proposed raising the cap on flights from 80 to 85 an hour, and allowing more aircraft to land in the "curfew shoulder" at Kingsford Smith, rather than building a second airport.

This is not part of the federal Coalition's aviation policy, but it has said that using quieter planes for private and business charter flights means a review of the list of aircraft allowed to fly in the 11pm to 6am curfew is warranted. It maintains this would not increase the number of flights in the curfew period.

It has also promised to nominate a site for a second airport in Sydney within three years.

Mr Borghetti said it made sense to relax the cap of 80 flights an hour at Kingsford Smith in the off-peak period, when a large portion of people were at work.

"Primarily [the concern] is about noise. But ... in most cases people are not in the houses during the day; they are out working," he said.

"Why wouldn't you relax that cap during non-peak hours?"

Airlines - especially low-cost and international carriers - wanted to operate more flights in the middle of the day, he said.

"Low-cost carriers operate non-peak because they schedule their aircraft differently and their market is different.

"Have a look at all airlines internationally. If you want to go to LA [Los Angeles], or you want to go to London, most flights leave between 11am and 5pm," he said. "I think a review is certainly justified."

Qantas said the hourly cap and curfew at Sydney Airport was unlikely to change soon.

"However, there is still considerable potential for operational efficiencies to improve the operation of the airport," a spokesman said.

Under the existing rules, no more than 24 international passenger aircraft are allowed to land each week in the shoulder periods between 5am and 6am, and 11pm and midnight.

A number of small freight and corporate jets are allowed to land and take off during the curfew period. These aircraft have to take off and land over Botany Bay to minimise noise disturbance.

A decision to relax the cap and curfew rests with incoming federal Transport Minister Warren Truss.

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