Aviation groups hit out as Dutch government pushes ahead with Schiphol flight cuts

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IATA, the European Regions Airline Association (ERAA) and Airports Council International (ACI) Europe have all hit out the Dutch government’s decision to cap flight numbers at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

The government last week announced that it would implement plans to cut flight numbers at the airport from 500,000 per year to 452,500 from winter 2024, as it looks to reduce noise pollution at the Dutch hub.

It has also reduced the number of night flights at the airport from 32,000 to 28,700 annually and requires the use of quieter aircraft at night. It says these measures will deliver a 15% cut in noise levels. 

The plans will need feedback from the European Commission and a range of aviation groups have expressed their disappointment at the decision to push ahead.

In a joint statement, IATA and ERAA said that the Dutch government had ignored the European Union’s Balanced Approach to airport flight reductions.

Under this process, the state must identify various measures that can reduce noise pollution, consult all interested parties, and a reduction in the number of aircraft movements is only allowed if it is clear that other measures to limit noise pollution are insufficient.

IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “Airlines are fully committed to addressing noise issues at airports under a proper Balanced Approach process.

“It is essential that any decision be postponed until a fully functioning and accountable government with a fresh mandate is in place.

“This unprecedented and complex proposal can then be considered carefully, with the legal questions settled and the full facts and implications understood and in the public domain, and with sufficient time for the air transport industry to adapt if necessary, when a final decision is known.”

The airline association said that the cuts would result in slot holdings being reduced which would affect passenger and freight flights.

It would impact trading partners – which have bilateral air services agreements – and the economy, IATA said.

“No mechanism, domestic or international, exists for agreeing such cuts,” said IATA.

“Rushing this process through could result in retaliatory international action and further legal challenges, including from governments defending their rights under international agreements and bilateral treaties. ”

IATA also said that it, along with airlines and other associations, had commenced Supreme Court cassation proceedings challenging the plan.

The Dutch government collapsed in June and elections will be held in November.

Against this backdrop, IATA yesterday argued the measures should not continue under the leadership of a “caretaker government”.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe said: “The outcome of the Balanced Approach process for noise management conducted for the capacity reduction at Schiphol as of Winter 2024 – as duly required under EU law – is just not acceptable.

“Indeed, the caretaker Dutch Government has not sufficiently considered proposed alternative measures that would have allowed the stated noise mitigation targets to be achieved without requiring a capacity reduction at Schiphol.

“These decisions are about quick political wins ahead of national elections – at the expense of the Dutch economy and jobs. We are calling upon the European Commission to urgently ensure the respect of the Balance Approach principles as per EU law.”

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal overturned a decision to block plans to cut flight departures at the Dutch hub from 500,000 annually to 460,000 from this winter.

Airlines and associations fight to overturn Schiphol flight cut ruling

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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]