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June 26, 2010

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Airport set to ban 'red-eye' flights

EARLY morning flights to and from the Hongqiao International Airport could be grounded after a rise in complaints from nearby residents about the noise.

The city's construction and transport commission is in talks with the civil aviation authorities, requesting a ban on flights between midnight and 6am.

Shen Xiaosu, the commission's deputy director, said the ban could come into effect when the next flight season begins on October 28.

Delayed flights -- those originally due to take off or land before midnight -- would still be allowed.

Airline officials said an end to red-eye flights, so called because of the fatigue involved in overnight travel, would have limited impact on the airlines, which don't operate international flights in the early hours.

People close to the airport on the west side of the city have been complaining about additional noise since a new terminal and second runway went into use in March.

The runways now allow 45 landings and departures an hour, compared to the previous 33, said Shanghai Airport Authority, the airport operator.

The new runway has a navigation system for night flying, it said.

A spokesman with the Civil Aviation Administration Bureau of East China, the regional aviation supervisor, declined to comment, saying he had not been informed about the controversy.

East China Air Traffic Management Bureau, the air routes controller, said it would comply with the new schedule if the rule was enacted.

Efforts were made to shorten the airport's landing zone and thus keep noise to a bearable range, but residents still complained.

Before the runway was completed, the airport authority said noise over 85 decibels would be "limited within the airport field instead of nearby residential areas."

Zhang Wu'an, a spokesman for Shanghai-based Spring Airlines, said just four of its domestic flights landed between 12am and 6am.

"The impact will be little for us if the Hongqiao airport cancels red-eye flights, and I think the airport will carry out supporting measures to coordinate the change," he said.

An official with China Eastern Airlines said it didn't run early morning flights at Hongqiao and a ban wouldn't affect its operations.


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