A caretaker Dutch government has approved controversial plans to slash the number of flights that can arrive and depart at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to just 460,000 per year as part of measures to reduce noise pollution for residents living around the country’s main airport.
Dutch flag carrier KLM, which celebrated its centenary anniversary in 2019, blasted the flight cap, calling it “incomprehensible” and tantamount to “tearing down” everything that the airline had built over the last 104 years.
The flight cap measure has been dragged through the Dutch courts with appeals and counter-appeals from both the government and a coalition of airlines who claim the plans break European Union laws because of a lack of consultation on the measure.
The previous Dutch government won its last appeal, paving the way to introduce the flight cap just before it imploded and former Prime Minister Mark Rutte spectacularly quit.
“It is hard to imagine such a drastic decision being taken by an outgoing government,” slammed KLM chief executive Marjan Rintel on Friday. “As an outgoing minister, you don’t mind the shop by closing it,” Rintel continued.
KLM argues that it has an alternative plan to significantly reduce noise pollution around Schiphol without cutting flights. Rintel wants the government to give KLM “space” to implement its plan, which involves utilising newer and quieter aircraft, as well as more efficient flight operations.
Under the KLM plan, airlines would be barred from flying older and noisier aircraft to Schiphol, and certain early morning and late night flights would be banned.
This is a so-called ‘Balanced Approach’ which is enshrined in EU law and states that flight cuts should only be implemented as a last resort. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) explains how the Balanced Approach respects both the needs of local residents and the aviation industry.
“The Balanced Approach is used specifically to ensure local community needs are respected, the wider benefits of air connectivity to the nation are protected, and the actions are respected internationally,” the airline trade body said on Friday.
“Airlines are fully committed to addressing noise issues at airports under a proper Balanced Approach process,” commented IATA director general Willie Walsh.
Walsh is calling for the flight cut plan to be put on ice until a new permanent government has been appointed, although that now looks unlikely to happen. The caretaker cabinet has approved the plan just days before controversial laws, which are still in the works, are locked out to wait for a new government to take over.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.