In what could be seen as a serious airport problem from a practical and economic point of view as Covid-19 impacts, a collection of 17 community and environmental groups have written to the Aviation Minister suggesting an eight-hour airport night flight ban be imposed on sleep and environmental grounds.

The intervention is being made as the Government prepared to launch a consultation into the future of night flights at airports across the country.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has the direct power to restrict night flights at three big airports: Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. These powers are used to cap the overall number of flights and noise levels, with Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, limited at present to an average of 16 flights each night. The existing regime will remain in place until late 2022.

However, the DfT is expected to unveil plans soon that will pave the way for reform at all airports across the country. It is unlikely to set direct quotas on take-offs and landings but it could propose improved monitoring of the impact on local homes and the requirement for better sound-proofing.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We recognise the concerns around the impact of noise on communities and intend to consult on night flights restrictions at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted shortly, as well as the Government’s national night flight policy.”