Airlines launch legal challenge to Schiphol flight limits

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The KLM Group, Delta Air Lines, Corendon, easyJet, TUI and IATA have launched a legal challenge against the Dutch government’s plans to reduce flights from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

The Dutch government last month announced it would reduce Schiphol’s capacity from 500,000 to 460,000 flight annual movements, with the ultimate goal of reducing flight movements to 440,000 by 2024.

IATA said that they believe the “political” decision contravenes EU Regulation 598/2014 on noise-related operating restrictions at European Union airports.

The airline association also said the reduction disregards the Chicago Convention, a binding international agreement to which the Netherlands is a signatory.

It said that annex 16 of the Convention contains provisions for The Balanced Approach to Aircraft Noise Management which states are obligated to follow when taking measures to manage the noise impacts of aviation.

The airlines said that they can reduce noise levels and CO2 emissions while “maintaining a network of destinations for the millions of passengers and tonnes of cargo they carry annually to and from Schiphol”.

They pointed out that they have already made multi-billion euros investments to meet near- and long-term goals in line with their own decarbonisation trajectories as well as government policies.

“The government’s justification hinges on operational restrictions with no consideration of alternative workable solutions to effect noise reduction,” they said.

KLM chief executive Marjan Rintel said: “We are embracing the targets set for reducing noise levels and CO2 emissions, investing billions in fleet renewal and SAF procurement that will ultimately supersede these targets while maintaining our network that serves 170 destinations worldwide.

“This is good news for the millions of people who fly from the Netherlands with KLM every year whether for business or leisure and for the cargo industry. As the government appears not to hear our call, unfortunately, we find ourselves compelled to take legal action.”

Peter Carter, executive vice president external affairs, Delta Air Lines, added: “Delta is committed to ambitious sustainability targets and wants to work collaboratively to meet these goals.

“We firmly believe that it is possible and, indeed, necessary to properly balance sustainability priorities with economic and wider societal interests.

“We strongly object to capacity reductions at Schiphol Airport and remain actively focused on investing in our fleet renewal and modernisation programme as the most effective way forward to mitigate noise and environmental concerns.”

IATA said that EU regulation requires consultation with affected parties; the use of flight reductions only as a last resort; and balancing the needs and concerns of local residents, the environment and the local economy for aviation’s economic and social benefits.

However, IATA said that none of these requirements had been met.

IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “The Netherlands is handicapping its economy by destroying connectivity. And it is doing it in contravention of EU law and its international obligations.

“The job-destroying hostile approach to aviation that the Dutch government has chosen is a totally disproportionate response to managing noise.

“The government has even refused to engage in meaningful consultations and made flight reductions the goal, rather than working with industry to meet noise and emissions reduction goals while restoring employment and revitalising the post-pandemic economy.

“The dangerous precedent that this illegal approach creates left no choice but to challenge them in court.”

When announcing the decision to reduce aircraft movements, airport operator Royal Schiphol Group, which is majority state-owned, said that the cuts were a “necessary intermediate step”.

“Schiphol does, however, call upon the government to initiate a new Airport Traffic Decree, containing perspectives for both local residents and airlines, as soon as possible,” the airport said.

Dutch aviation groups hit out at current emission ceiling plans

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]