Airlines face Schiphol in court over reduced summer flights

Crowded Schiphol Airport; 12 Feb 2018
Crowded Schiphol Airport; 12 Feb 2018Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

Airlines Corendon, TUI and easyJet had Schiphol in court on Thursday to try and force the airport to transfer its 2,700 unused 'time slots' for the past winter to the busy summer season. If the airport doesn't do so, half a million Dutch tourists may have to change their summer plans, the airlines say, the Telegraaf reports. 

This transfer of unused winter 'time slots' to the busy summer season is customary. But this year Schiphol refuses to do so in order to better manage the expected peak pressure in the summer, and to stay below the airport's limit of 500 thousand flight movements per year. 

"That would mean that we have to move flights from Schiphol to regional airports. The problem is that Eindhoven is also full and Rotterdam has only limited reserve. Only Maastricht still has enough space", Corendon boss Steven van der Heijden said in the court in Haarlem on Thursday, according to the newspaper.

According to the TUI lawyer, this may even lead to flights being canceled if Schiphol does not take its responsibility and make the maximum flight capacity available. "After all, flights are booked months in advance."

According to Schiphol, over 12 thousand flights are on the waiting list for this summer. "The airport is doing everything possible to accommodate airlines and still allow the operation to succeed in the peak hours. We are taking extra measures", Schiphol's lawyer said. "We do not think that 2,700 winter slots will be desirable this year. We are allowed to make such a decision."

Schiphol's lawyer added that this type of decision will never please everyone. "Some are for, others against. It is the task and the goal of the airport to make the decision. A very difficult choice, but another 2,700 flights can turn out unpredictable in 2018." Schiphol's top priority is "managing" passenger flows as well as possible. 

The lawyers for the airlines call the decision "disproportionate, unilateral and unauthorized", according to the newspaper. They also accuse Schiphol of favoring KLM. They point out that an airport's main function is facilitating flights. "Schiphol wants to prevent claims and negative publicity, but that is not our problem."

The court will rule on April 5th.