London Heathrow airport has pledged to introduce a ban on night flights between 23:00 and 05:30 as part of a package of measures aimed at gaining approval for a third runway from the government.

In a set of proposed concessions published today, the airport says it will back the introduction of a legally binding 6.5h night-time flight ban which it argues would exceed the Airports Commission's recommendation that flights be restricted between 23:30 and 06:00 at Heathrow as part of a steps to mitigate the impact on communities of a third runway.

Speaking at a media event in London today, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the night time regime proposed by the airport differed from the one proposed by the Airports Commission because one factor "not captured" by that body was the answer to the question: "If you stop having flights before the ban, where do you move them to?"

Holland-Kaye suggested that, were existing night flights moved to 06:00-07:00, "you use up most of the new capacity you have just created [with the building of a new runway]". He adds: "That makes it harder for new airlines to come in and compete with existing airlines, so EasyJet would find it harder to come in and compete with British Airways."

The current night-time flight ban at Heathrow runs from 23:30 to 04:30. Sixteen night flights operate from Heathrow every day between 04:30 and 06:00. Holland-Kaye says affected flights were being moved to a later time. He adds: "The shift is not very significant. The big prize for airlines is the new capacity... I have 30 airlines that want to come into Heathrow."

Other commitments made today by Heathrow include backing the creation of an independent aviation noise authority with statutory powers, the creation of a ground transport "emission charge" for what Holland-Kaye terms the "most polluting vehicles", and "accepting" a commitment from the government ruling out a fourth runway.

The airport operator hopes the new concessions will strengthen its case for a third runway at Heathrow over a new second runway at Gatwick airport. A decision on the location of new capacity still needs to be made by the government. Holland-Kaye says he expects "nothing will happen before the EU [membership] referendum" on 23 June but says there is a "window of about four weeks" before 21 July when parliament goes into recess "when a decision could be made".

Failing that, he says, the "political summer might extend to October", which might equally be a "good time" for the government to make a decision. But he also concedes: "It might take longer."

Source: Cirium Dashboard