The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expressed shock at the announcement by the government of the Netherlands will cut the number of annual flights at Schiphol Airport to 440,000 – a 20% cut to Schiphol’s potential cap.
“This sudden decision is a shocking blow to aviation, jobs, and the economy of the Netherlands. It comes on top of a tripling of the passenger tax, and a 37% rise in airport charges. We are seeing a throttling of air connectivity which has been steadily built up for 100 years, and supported large parts of the Dutch economy and the aspirations of millions of Dutch travelers,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
The justification put forward for the cut is not supported by facts. The government claims that the cuts will reduce noise and deliver a significant reduction in NOx emissions. But aviation’s NOx contribution is around 1% of total NOx deposition in the Netherlands, and the redistributed noise paths that are also a part of this initiative will actually increase the number of people exposed to aircraft noise.
Prior to the pandemic, aviation supported more than 300,000 jobs and €22 billion in GDP to the economy of the Netherlands. Key to this economic contribution was the connectivity driven by Schiphol’s global hub airport role. In 2019, Amsterdam was the third-best internationally connected city in Europe, behind only London and Paris.
“When governments shut down aviation in the pandemic, we all saw the terrible impact that it had on people in the Netherlands and its economy. Downsizing Schiphol will permanently destroy jobs that are only now recovering. Moreover, without the possibility to grow at Schiphol, businesses in the Netherlands will need to evaluate their future in an economy that will be moving from global gateway to regional center,” said Walsh.
Schiphol has been recovering fast since the end of pandemic restrictions. The airport has already had over 280,000 movements this year, putting it on track to reach its existing 500,000 movement limit. The previous Dutch government, recognizing the economic importance of Schiphol’s hub connections, set out a pathway for Schiphol to grow to 540,000 movements. The sudden announcement of a cut to 440,000 movements thus constitutes a 20% cut to the potential connectivity of the airport.
On sustainable aviation, the industry has committed to reaching net-zero CO2 by 2050. Delivering this tough goal will require huge investment in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and cleaner, quieter aircraft. KLM’s commitment to SAF, for example, is directly encouraging suppliers to increase production. But these investments can only be maximized if carriers are operating in a stable regulatory business environment. Overnight changes to the rules of the game by governments are counterproductive to investment in a more sustainable industry, nor do they create any environmental gain when passengers keen to fly will travel to alternative airports to do so.
“After two years of restrictions, the world is getting moving again. Schiphol has been struggling to cope with demand, which shows how important the airport is, not just to Dutch travelers, but as a strategic hub for the Netherlands. This crazy decision to cut the airport off at its knees will achieve none of the stated environmental aims, but it will cause irreparable harm to jobs and prosperity. The government should reverse course and set out a meaningful pathway for the sustainable growth of aviation in the Netherlands, focused on delivering sustainable aviation fuels and helping the industry meet its commitment to achieve net-zero CO2 by 2050,” said Walsh.