Who makes the noise at Luton Airport?

Wizz Air is the fastest-growing airline at Luton Airport, grabbing 36.3% of all aircraft movements in 2019, up from 27% in 2014. easyJet still hangs on as the major airline at 44% of commercial movements, with RyanAir in third place at 12%. The data below is from the Airport’s Annual Monitoring Report for 2019:

Commercial aircraft movements by airline at Luton Airport in 2019
Commercial movements by airline at Luton Airport in 2019

Another trend also needs to be understood when considering the impact of the shift to more and more Wizz flights: what aircraft do they fly and how noisy are they? Wizz flies the largest passenger planes most often used at Luton Airport: Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 types, the latter being added to the fleet due to the additional passenger capacity. Being larger and heavier, these types are often noisier than the smaller aircraft, particularly when not fitted with quieter ‘neo’ engines. Even the A321s with neo engines do not seem to be quieter at Luton compared to the ordinary A321s however.

The fleet mix has changed over the past 5 years as follows:

Aircraft movements by type at Luton Airport, 2015-2019
The changing fleet at Luton Airport over the past 5 years

This graph clearly shows that larger noisier A321s are on the increase, at the expense of smaller quieter A319s. While the new A320neo types with engines that do sound slightly quieter have increased to 4% of the fleet since 2017, the benefit has been rubbed out by an increase in A321s and a corresponding decrease in quieter A320s, and 6% decrease in A319s over the same period.

In other words, the mix of planes using Luton Airport is getting noisier and noisier over time, and for all the boasts about incentivising quieter-engined aircraft, the A321neos used by Wizz register effectively the same noise levels at the fixed monitors used by the Airport operator (people can only perceive a 3dB peak noise difference). And RyanAir’s older and smaller Boeing 737-800s are generally noisier still. This is clearly shown in the graphs below from the Airport’s Quarterly Monitoring Report, Quarter 1 2020.

Aircraft noise by type, showing A321neo as loud as A321