The EU Environmental Noise Directive [5] and the associated Balanced Approach Regulation [7] aim at promoting the sustainable development of air transport through the reduction of aircraft noise pollution at airports. This legislation introduced the principle of a ‘balanced approach’ to aircraft noise management at airports, in line with ICAO guidance [57]. Within the balanced approach, airports are encouraged to initially assess the current noise situation via the identification of specific issues using a mix of modelling (computer simulations) and monitoring techniques (noise measuring equipment located around the airport). This should then be used by airports to define a noise baseline, future objectives and an accompanying noise management action plan. This balanced approach consists of the following core elements:

  1. Reduction of noise at source through the promotion and support of studies, research and technology programmes aiming at reducing noise at the source or by other means.
  2. Land‑use planning and management policies to prevent incompatible development into noise‑sensitive areas. This action unites planning (zoning, easement), mitigation (building codes, insulation, real estate disclosure) and financial aspects (tax incentives, charges).
  3. The practical application of noise abatement operational procedures [58], to the extent possible without affecting safety. These procedures enable the reduction or the redistribution of the noise around the airport and the full use of modern aircraft capabilities.
  4. Operating restrictions on aircraft defined as any noise‑related restriction that limits access to or reduces the operational capacity of an airport, for instance noise quotas or flight restrictions. This is used only after consideration of other elements of the balanced approach.

The involvement of all local stakeholders in the discussions on a balanced approach is an important factor in reducing aircraft noise and limiting the annoyance for people living near airports. While new European rules [7] require assessments of the impact of local restrictions on the wider aviation network, it is important to note that the actual decisions related to a specific airport are taken by local decision makers.