“Liege Airport has been a success story for almost twenty years,” said Marc Renouprez, chairman of the board of directors, during a press conference this Thursday morning. “Over the past five years, we have recorded a doubling of production volumes, and the airport manages more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs”, spread over 143 companies, according to a study by ULiège. The airport also has ambitions, included in a 2020-2040 business plan which was approved in December 2021 by the board of directors. With a very significant growth in employment.
After having launched the procedure for renewing the environmental permit two years ago, the managers of Liege Airport said they were “quite confident, insofar as the Walloon Region unconditionally supports the development of the airport within a framework very strict environment”. Especially since Liege Airport announces it: it has an ambitious environmental plan, with a series of objectives (water and air quality, mobility, and noise pollution). “We have decided to encourage daytime rather than nighttime flights”, insists Marc Renouprez. “We also had repeated and constructive contact with the officials responsible for investigating the case.”
If after 20 years you reduce the number of night flights by 80%, this is equivalent to closing the airport at night at short notice.
In addition to the cap on the number of flights, it is also the limit on the number of night flights that poses a problem. “Our airport was sold with an unrestricted night opening,” recalls Laurent Jossart, CEO. “If after 20 years you reduce the number of night flights by 80%, this is equivalent to closing the airport at night at short notice.” With the risk that FEDEX, Liege Airport’s biggest customer, leaves the Grace-Hollogne site.
Another grievance announced by airport officials: the new permit is not financially viable. It would lead to a substantial reduction in freight activity. With a projection of 675,000 tonnes of cargo per year in 2040, the situation would be catastrophic, the airport considering 2,450,000 tonnes of cargo per year in 2040, according to its 2020-2040 business plan. “The probable departure of companies would eliminate more than 5,000 jobs in the short term.” The master plan also provided for the creation of thousands of jobs. “We therefore estimate the loss of potential at 14,000 jobs.”
24 appeals filed including those of several municipalities
“We darken the picture, but we are happy and proud to have obtained a permit”, nuance Laurent Jossart, CEO, who specifies that 24 appeals have been filed, including those of several customers of the airport (FEDEX, ASL, X -Air Services, Bel Air Cargo and Challenge) as well as several municipalities (Hannut, Donceel and Fexhe, in particular).
“We are going to be constructive,” adds Marc Renouprez, chairman of the board of directors. “We are looking for answers, solutions, to make counter-proposals.”
The decision of the Walloon government, after examination of the appeal by the two technical and delegate officials, should be known by mid-January 2023 at the latest.