Dutch Government suspends Schiphol Airport flight reduction plans amid global opposition

The Dutch government has announced the temporary abandonment of its plans to curtail flights at Amsterdam’s bustling Schiphol Airport, citing objections from various nations, including the United States, and concerns about potential violations of European law and aviation agreements.

Last year, the government unveiled its intentions to decrease the number of flights at Schiphol from 500,000 to 460,000, a significant move for one of Europe’s busiest aviation hubs.

In a letter addressed to lawmakers, Minister for Infrastructure and Water, Mark Harbers, revealed that the initial phase of the plan, slated for 2024, has been postponed “until further notice,” pending a decision by the country’s Supreme Court.

While a lower court had blocked the reduction plans in May, an appeals court in Amsterdam later overturned this decision. A final ruling from the Supreme Court is anticipated in the second quarter of 2024. Schiphol expressed disappointment in a statement, stating that local residents are at a disadvantage due to these recent developments.

The proposed flight cuts aimed to mitigate noise pollution for residents near the airport, situated on the southern outskirts of Amsterdam. Schiphol argued that this decision would introduce more uncertainty, especially for the aviation sector, emphasizing the need to noticeably reduce disturbances for local residents.

In the letter to lawmakers, Harbers revealed that U.S. authorities deemed the flight reduction as “unjust, discriminatory, and anti-competitive for airlines.”

Airlines for America, an aviation group, welcomed the decision and extended gratitude to the U.S. government for issuing a “very strong order outlining the violations of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.” The group emphasized its commitment to addressing the needs of passengers and shippers while actively working towards global climate goals in aviation, including the reduction of noise pollution.

Dutch airline KLM applauded the decision to shelve the plan, considering it “an important step to prevent retaliation and to continue flying to the US.” KLM stated it had agreed to several announced measures, including a cleaner, quieter, and more economical plan to accelerate noise pollution reduction, aligning with the government’s environmental concerns.

However, environmental groups in the Netherlands, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, expressed shock at the decision. They emphasized the significant stakes involved, leaving local residents in a difficult position and exacerbating the climate crisis. Despite this setback, the groups insisted that the number of flights must be reduced to make the Netherlands more livable and effectively address the climate crisis.