Private short flights on the rise among politicians, businesspeople
In May of 2022, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten attended a conference on sustainable energy in Esbjerg, Denmark. The private plane that took them there had just flown thousands of kilometers empty from Tel Aviv –– a move that experts say has a large environmental impact.
Private flights are already 38 percent more popular in the first eight months of 2022 than they were in 2019, according to RTL Nieuws. Extremely short private flights are becoming increasingly common among businesspeople and politicians. In addition, the government often lets aircraft fly empty to pick up ministers to save their travel time, according to RTL.
For example, in May, the plane coming from Tel Aviv had just dropped off Foreign Affairs Minister Wopke Hoekstra for a visit to the Palestinian territories. After flying Rutte and Jetten to Denmark, it then flew 9,000 kilometers empty back to Tel Aviv to pick up Hoekstra.
Short flights and flights where planes are empty are not environmentally sound, said aviation expert and assistant professor Joris Melkert. A single trip from Amsterdam to Rotterdam can consume up to 1,200 liters of kerosene.
"Try to take into account minimal environmental impact when planning the departure of these types of flights," Melkert said. "Also try to take as many people as possible on such a flight at the same time. And try not to let the planes fly empty. That is a shame."
Dutch government aircraft have flown between Dutch airports at least 26 times this year, usually to pick up ministers, according to RTL's investigation. The data collected by RTL shows that this trend is increasing, not only in 2022 but in the past several years. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that each flight is preceded by "serious and careful consideration."
As for ultra-short private flights, they are usually made by businesspeople in the Netherlands, according to RTL's findings. For example, the aircraft of supermarket chain Jumbo's CEO has made at least 24 short flights since the beginning of the year. The most popular routes for these extremely short flights are Amsterdam to Antwerp at 158 flights, Amsterdam to Rotterdam at 143 flights and Amsterdam to Brussels at 116 flights, according to RTL.
Such short private flights are also not ideal from the perspective of the business aviation sector, as they cause expensive wear to aircraft. "It may be that a flight arrived at night at Rotterdam and has to depart from Amsterdam the next day for another customer," said Robert Baltus of the industry association of private jet companies. "You prefer not to, but the aircraft has to go there."