Schiphol can grow to 540,000 flights per year: report

A plane approaches Schiphol Airport
A plane approaches Schiphol AirportPhoto: @Schiphol / Twitter

Schiphol airport can theoretically grow to accommodating 540 thousand flights per year in 2023, 40 thousand more than is currently permitted, is stated in an interim environmental impact report on the airport that will be published on Thursday, insiders told NOS. The limit is not determined by noise or environmental impact, but by safety, according to the broadcaster.

The interim report looked at how much quieter aircraft have become since 2004. The agreement is that half of that 'saved' noise can be used for growth. According to the report, that translates to an extra 60 thousand flights per year, without more people being faced with noise pollution than allowed. The fact that the report advises only adding 40 thousand flights a year, has to do with air traffic control not being able to handle more than that. Another factor is that for growth above 540 thousand flight movements, the airspace has to be reclassified. Because that reclassification is scheduled for 2023, it is not possible to look further than that year, the report states, according to the broadcaster.

Residents of Zwanenburg, Aalsmeer and Uithoorn will bear the brunt of the extra noise pollution if Schiphol is allowed to handle 40 thousand more flights per year, according to the report. This is because the Zwanenburg runway and Aalsmeer runway will have to be used more to process the extra flights. 

The report also states that growth is only possible if the so-called four-runway rule is substantially expanded. Schiphol is obliged to make as much use as possible of the Kaag runway and the Polder runway, because fewer local residents are affected by the use of those runways. Scihphol can also always use a third runway as an additional take-off or landing runway, and temporarily use a fourth runway during peaks. This fourth runway can handle a maximum of 80 flight movements a day. 

Currently the fourth runway is used about 20 days a year, according to the broadcaster. If Schiphol is allowed to grow to 540 thousand flight movements per year, this will increase to 180 days per year. 

The 40 thousand extra flight movements will also mean an around 8 percent increase in CO2 emissions. That is at odds with government policy, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Last month the Dutch aviation sector presented a plan for growth without emissions increasing, according to the sector. Those plans were not included in this report. 

Schiphol has been working on an Environmental Impact Assessment for the airport for years. This report is needed to determine what the maximum capacity for the airport can be from an environmental point of view. Until 2020, Schiphol is bound to a maximum of 500 thousand flight movements per year. That limit has already been reached. New agreements need to be made for 2020 to 2030, and the environmental impact report is the starting point of this. 

The final growth limit will be decided by the Schiphol Environment Council, which consists of the aviation sector, the business continuity, local residents, environmental organizations and the national and local governments. The goal is to present this final report by Christmas. The report will be sent as advice to Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure, and the government will decide whether or not to follow that advice.