IATA welcomes court decision to halt Schiphol Airport flight cuts

Dutch govt’s ‘experimental regulation’ plan was to reduce Schiphol Airport’s flight limit to 460,000 from Nov 2023

IATA welcomes court decision to halt Schiphol Airport flight cuts
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the decision by a Dutch court to uphold the legal challenges lodged by IATA, KLM and other airlines against the Dutch government’s ‘experimental regulation’ to cut Schiphol Airport’s flight limit to 460,000 from November 2023.

“We welcome the judge’s decision," says Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA. "This case has been about upholding the law and international obligations. The judge has understood that the Dutch government violated its obligations in shortcutting processes that would bring scrutiny to its desire to cut flight numbers at Schiphol. This decision gives vital stability for this year to the airlines using Schiphol Airport and maintains the choice and connectivity passengers value.

"Winning this vital reprieve is good news for Schiphol’s passengers, Dutch businesses, the Dutch economy and airlines. But the job is not done. The threat of flight cuts at Schiphol remains very real and is still the stated policy of the government. Schiphol Airport themselves yesterday announced night flight cuts without consultation. Airlines understand the importance of resolving issues such as noise. The balanced approach is the correct EU and global legally-enshrined process for managing noise impacts. It has helped airports around the world successfully address this issue.”

Background & case
The Dutch government had decided to reduce the number of flight movements at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 to 440,000 per year. "We believed no legal basis existed for this reduction: it violates international treaties and European regulations. Governments can lower the number of flight movements in order to reduce noise but only after having after a careful process, consisting of e.g. assessing the current noise level, setting a noise goal and considering alternative measures. This did not occur. The 440,000 cap is not a means to an end, but the objective. The Dutch government also sought to accelerate the implementation of this reduction by introducing an experimental regulation with an interim cap of 460,000 flight movements from November 1, 2023. We believe this interim cap is also subject to – and therefore in violation of - international treaties and European regulations."

The carriers that joined IATA’s action were Air Canada, United Airlines, FedEx, JetBlue, British Airways, Vueling, Lufthansa, and Airlines for America.

Way ahead
Assuming the state does not appeal the decision in time, Schiphol Airport's flight limit will remain at 500,000 for the Winter 23-24 season. "Attention now moves to the consultation which has begun on limiting Schiphol on a permanent basis to 440,000 flights from 2024 onwards. We believe that the Dutch state is again at risk of not following the balanced approach by proceeding from the basis that flight numbers will be reduced to 440,000, rather than starting with measuring noise and defining a noise objective."

Any flight cuts can only be a last resort to achieve the noise objective, not the starting point, according to IATA, which believes that the court ruling gives a strong indication that the state must follow the proper process and analyse all options.

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