Heathrow press releases

08 July, 2015

Cathay Pacific moves from middle of the pack to top ten quiet performers



  •   Hong-Kong based airline moves from 24th in the first League table to 8th in latest results
  •   LOT airline has seen a huge improvement in its use of quieter arrival approach
  •   Finnair ’s use of quieter aircraft result in an improved score


Heathrow has today revealed the results of the seventh quarterly Fly Quiet League, which covers airlines’ performance from January to March 2015.

Track keeping  - tracking the proportion of departures that flew outside defined noise preferential routes -   is now included in analysis of the results for the League table for the first time since 2013. In 2014, track keeping was impacted by airspace modernization trials in support of Government proposals for the Future Airspace Strategy which Heathrow took part in, and as such, the metric was not included in Fly Quiet league results. The inclusion of this metric once more has resulted in several shifts in the league table.

The overall success story remains Cathay Pacific, an airline which has seen consistent improvements in its performance throughout the history of the Fly Quiet league. This quarter, the Hong Kong airline has gone up three places, to take its place in the top ten performers. KLM is now in 9th place, going up 7 places from the previous quarter. The top three performers, British Airways short haul, Virgin Atlantic Little Red, and Aer Lingus, remain the same.

Following Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye’s letter to all airlines failing to meet Heathrow’s CDA standards, and closer technical cooperation between Heathrow and airlines since the end of 2014, overall red score violations in this metric have fallen by 3 compared to the year before. A particular success story in the implementation of CDA has been Polish airline LOT, which has improved its adherence of the procedure from 50% at the start of the Fly Quiet League to 85% today. 

Given its increased use of the quieter A320 fleet, Finnair has shown an improvement in its Chapter number scores this quarter, and turned its rating to amber from red last year.

Heathrow has asked airlines to adhere to their scheduled daily night flight arrival times, taking into account the need for local communities to have predictable noise respite during these sensitive hours. The number of airlines adhering to their schedule has remained relatively static over the course of the Fly Quiet Programme, however, airlines continue to breach the operational schedule targets each quarter. These breaches do not impact the overall number of flights operating in these early morning hours in each season, as this is legally restricted by the Government. Heathrow’s technical team is actively engaging with the airlines who have a red score in this metric to improve their performance.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Director of Sustainability and Environment said, “Heathrow’s Fly Quiet League is a unique initiative that has produced real results. We know we can always do more to reduce noise and that is why we have committed to this open, and transparent tracker of noise performance that not only allows us to celebrate best practice but also to point out where we need to work with airlines to improve their performance.”

The Fly Quiet Programme forms part of Heathrow’s wider noise action plan to tackle aircraft noise. Due to Heathrow’s mix of strict operating restrictions and noise– reducing incentives, aircraft that airlines use at Heathrow are on average around 15% quieter than the global fleet of those airlines.


Notes to editors:

The League Table can be found as a PDF in 'downloadable assets.'

The seventh Fly Quiet table rated the top 50 airlines operating at Heathrow (by number of flights per quarter) according to six noise related criteria. The airlines received a red/amber/green rating for each criterion, as well as an overall score that allows them to understand how they are performing in relation to other airlines.

As some elements of the Fly Quiet league, for example CDA, are influenced by seasonal variables, comparisons between the same quarterly periods of year to year are particularly useful.

For more information on Heathrow’s Blueprint for noise reduction please see: http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/making-heathrow-quieter/our-noise-strategy/blueprint-for-noise-reduction

For more information on the Government’s modernization of airspace, please visit http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/future-plans/modernising-uk-airspace/heathrow%E2%80%99s-airspace-trials

Further details about the Fly Quiet programme:

The six noise metrics

Airlines were consulted on which metrics would be used to compile the Fly Quiet league table. Each metric will be assigned a “RAG” (Red, Amber, Green) status based on the performance bands set for that indicator. As a result operators towards the top of the table will typically have more ‘green scores’ than those towards the bottom. Because scores fluctuate within a band it is possible for an airline with all green scores to sit further down the table, than those with amber or red scores. Individual metric scores will not be published. The ratings are corrected for the number of flights flown by each airline so airlines with more flights are not penalised.

The metrics below make up the Fly Quiet League Table:

1.  Noise quota count/seat/movement. This is a relative noise “efficiency” metric which scores the noise efficiency of an operator’s fleet, recognising that whilst larger aircraft tend to be noisier they also carry more passengers. It is calculated by dividing the sum of QC for arrivals and departures by the aggregate seat capacity and total movements by airline of those flights. This provides a balance between a QC/seat or QC/movement metric which will tend to overly bias long haul or short haul carriers respectively.

A ‘red’ score is awarded if the QC/seat/movement indicator exceeds 0.000022. An ‘amber’ score is awarded if the score is better than the minimum performance targets above but greater than 0.00001.

2.  Noise Certification – each aircraft is required to have a noise certificate which can be used to determine its relative performance against ICAO noise performance targets (Chapter 3 and Chapter 4). This allows us to recognise “best in class” and compare performance across different types. An average ‘per movement’ Chapter number value is calculated for each airline, which favours the airlines operating best-in-class, modern, quieter aircraft more frequently.

The minimum performance target in these metrics for the purpose of the Fly Quiet programme is Chapter 4. If the average score of an airline’s fleet operated to and from Heathrow is less than the Chapter 4 equivalent a ‘red score is awarded. A ‘green’ score is awarded if the average noise certification score of an airline is better than the equivalent of Chapter 4 base charging category (see our Conditions of Use www.heathrowairport.com).

3. Arrival Operations: Continuous Descent Approach (CDA violations). CDA involves aircraft maintaining a steady angle of approach when landing at the airport, as opposed to stepped approaches which involve prolonged periods of level flight. This reduces noise because it requires less engine thrust and keeps the aircraft higher for longer. By following a CDA on arrival, the noise on the ground can be reduced by up to 5dBA in areas away from the final approach paths. The purpose of the indicator is to capture the non-CDA arrivals and so potentially reduce the disturbance caused.

The minimum performance target for the CDA compliance is set for 55% for the Fly Quiet programme. An airline achieving this but not exceeding 75% gets an ‘amber’ score; CDA compliance of 75% and more means a ‘green’ score is awarded.

4.    Departure Operations: Track deviations on departure (TK violations). Aircraft are required to stay within ‘noise preferential routes’ (NPRs) – 3km wide tracks in the sky, designated by the Government to route aircraft away from more densely populated areas as far as possible - until they reach 4000ft. The track deviations indicator is expressed as the proportion of departures that flew outside the NPRs below 4000ft. The purpose of the indicator is to capture the aircraft which operate outside of these boundaries and so potentially cause unexpected noise disturbance. Instances where this occurs for reasons outside of the airline’s control are excluded for the calculation.

The minimum performance target for the track keeping compliance is set for 85% for the Fly Quiet programme. An airline achieving this standard but not exceeding 90% gets an ‘amber’ score; CDA compliance of 90% and more means a ‘green’ score is awarded.

5. Night time Operations 1: arrivals prior to 0430. There is a voluntary arrangement that aircraft scheduled to land between 0430 and 0600 will not land prior to 0430. This is a very sensitive time and issue for local community groups. The purpose of this indicator is to measure adherence to the operator schedules. It is measured as the number of flights arriving before 0430 as a proportion of the total number of arrivals for the airline.

Green: no infringements, Red: one or more infringements

6. Night time Operations 2: unscheduled arrivals prior to 0600. Arrivals scheduled to land after 0600 should not land before then unless there are dispensing circumstances (e.g. Low visibility conditions). This is also a very sensitive time and issue for local community groups. The purpose of this indicator is to measure adherence to the operator schedules. It is measured as the number of unscheduled flights arriving between 0430 and 0600 as a proportion of the total number of arrivals for the airline.

Green: no infringements, Red: one or more infringements

 As metrics 5 & 6 are limited in terms of the airlines they could affect but are nonetheless important issues for community stakeholders these have been weighted lower than the remaining 4 so as to not result in dramatic fluctuations in an airlines ranking. Instances where metrics 5 & 6 occur for reasons outside of the airline’s control are excluded for the calculation.

The set of indicators is designed to address the aims of the programme whilst giving the operators the opportunity to improve their ranking by short-term (i.e. operational/tactical) or long-term (e.g. fleet planning) measures.


  • The overall ranking of operators in the league table is determined on the basis of the cumulative score resulting from six individual metrics; a lower overall score means higher ranking.
  • The top 50 operators by number of movements in the given quarter are included in the league table – this aims to eliminate skewing results by including operators with infrequent operations while covering >90% of movements. The individual metrics are normalised before they are converted into the final partial score for the given operator and respective indicator.
  • Operators are split into long-haul and short-haul by percentage of long-haul movements. Movements are defined on the basis of aircraft types deployed on the routes operated by the airline to/from Heathrow. A ‘long-haul aircraft’ for the purposes of the Fly Quiet programme is an aircraft which has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 180 tonnes or more.
  • An operator is categorised as long-haul if long-haul movements represent more than 80% of the operator’s movements, and is categorised as short-haul if the long-haul movements represent <20% of the operator’s movements. Any operator with 20-80% long-haul movements is split and measured separately on its long-haul and short-haul traffic, i.e. two separate entries for the same airline can appear in the league table.
  • The league tables will be published on a quarterly basis with an annual review and recognition of changes in performance.
  •  The indicators and calculation mechanisms are also proposed in a way that enables even the lower-ranked operators to show some ‘green’ scores rather than to award these operators ‘red’ scores only.



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