There is an old stereotype about Germans blocking poolside seats with their towels so others can’t use them. Well, it turns out they do something similar at their airports – sticking strict night flight restrictions and curfews on them so no-one else can use them until morning.
OK, that isn’t actually remotely similar, but the bit about the night flight restrictions is, so we thought a little refresher on them might be handy since we are heading into Christmas market season soon and Germany is one of the very best spots for that.
Why do they have such strict restrictions and curfews?
Noise mainly. They like their people to get a good nights sleep.
What do the restrictions look like?
It differs from airport to airport depending on the laziness of the locals (that’s a joke), but in general it looks like a strict cut-off time followed by no flying at night.
You can find them in the Aerodrome bit of the AIP.
There is also a very handy tool on the German Slot Coordination website. It has info on night restrictions at IATA level 2/3 airports, (much easier than scrolling through the AIP).
But here is a brief look at some of the main airports and their restrictions (all times in local) to give you an idea:
The restriction is from 23:00-06:00
If you are scheduled to land before 23:00 and you’ve got a really good reason (ie not your fault you’re late), then they do have some special regulations allowing flights to take off and and up to midnight.
Berlin’s retraction is 00:00-05:00 for all regular scheduled flights.
They have a reduced number of movements between 23:00 and midnight, and between 05:00 and 06:00 (31 movements are allowed), and they reserve 05:00-05:30 and 23:30-00:00 for delayed flights only.
23:30-05:30 with a 30 minute window either side for late flights.
Cargo flights have no restriction but no, you can’t call passengers cargo.
22:00-06:00, but they allow landings up to 23:00 (up to 23:30 if you’re on their “bonus” list)
You can also get in even later/earlier if Dusseldorf is a proper maintenance base for you (basically a home base)
Frankfurt has a bunch of special regulations based on your noise certs, scheduled movement restrictions, if you’re trying to land on the north-west runway. Basically…. 11pm to 5am is going to apply unless you’re lucky or special.
22:00-06:00, but you’ve got a 30 minute lateness window for landing.
There are some different exemptions if you’re a prop aircraft for example.
10pm to 6am as part of a ‘modern, restrictive noise quota system’.
That noise thing can win you a spot of their bonus list which means you might be able to land within the restricted hours (but probably not between midnight and 5am which is their ‘core night’ period).
Well, again it differs from airport to airport but generally something around the 75dB[A] mark is what the likes of EDDM/Munich measure.
But then they say this, so we aren’t really sure:
You’re better checking it directly at the airport than us trying to summarise them all.
What is the bonus list?
It is something published by the “Bundesministrium für Verkehr, Bau und Wohnungswesen” and basically lists a bunch of types which are exempt from the noise regulations. We can’t find it, but we do know that the B737-600/700/800 is included on it, if that helps anyone.
Who is restricted?
Probably you. The restrictions reply to pretty much everyone, save a few exceptions.
These are the exceptions (that we know of):
- Emergency diversions
- Flights needing to use them as an alternate due weather, tech or safety reasons (that doesn’t mean planning them as weather alternates after hours though)
- Disaster relief flight
- Medical flights
- Search and rescue flights
- Police flights
- Mail flights
- Flights that have special permits pre-arranged
What do I do if I’m late?
Well, try not to be, but if you really can’t help it…
Whatever the lateness reason, getting a message to your handler at the airport to help pre-arrange things is probably a good idea.
These are strict curfews though, there ain’t no wiggle room. The only way you’ll be getting in inside of them is if it is a genuine emergency.
- If you are delayed en-route then chances are you will not be cleared the arrival or approach and will be sent on a diversion elsewhere
- If you are on the arrival this doesn’t mean you’ll definitely be allowed to land
- If you are on the approach then you may not be given landing clearance. Harsh, but I’ve heard it happening
- If you have been cleared to land then you have been cleared to land and all should be good
- If you end up flying a missed approach then whether they can accept you for a second approach and landing depends on the situation. No ATC is going to prioritise a noise curfew over safety, but, we’ll say it again, those curfews are strict! It may need to be an emergency
- If you are delayed on the ground then you’re not going anywhere
When considering alternates, remember it isn’t just in Germany – there are several spots in Europe with similar restrictions.
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I am not quite sure about the part “If you have been cleared to land then you have been cleared to land and all should be good”.
ATC might queery you about the curfew, but they have no idea if you have received an extention to land during curfew or not. They will issue a landing clearance when it is safe to do so from an ATC perspective, but the government will still issue a fine for non-compliance with the curfew. Do not rely on an ATC clearance as an indicator that curfew has been lifted for you.
Good point, and wasn’t written very well. The view I guess I was taking was more that if you’re on the approach, have been given a landing clearance then you are probably focused on the landing. We all remain go-around minded but for safety reasons. I wouldn’t personally be still discussing the curfew at that point, if that make sense.
I take the points you’ve made there on ATC and their understanding of the curfew for sure though. I just think with a landing clearance given, for me, the focus is now on landing on safely, still not still working out if my curfew applies. Should have happened a while back.
The current bonuslist is still the one from 2003 NfL I – 83/03:
Hello great article. Correct me if I’m wrong but pretty much all of Western Europe is the same. From my experience flying mainly in Europe if there is a curfew they will stick to it to the minute. Mainly because locals will make a big fuss if they hear a plane a minute after curfew.
Germany is (in my experience) the most strict but yes, there are numerous other airports in Europe which have night restrictions and curfews.
Hi Rebecca, German Slot Coordination have a useful tool on their website for night restrictions at IATA level 2/3 airports, much easier than scrolling through the AIP – https://fluko.org/en/flughaefen/flughaefen-level-3/