Court scraps Dutch gov't plan to reduce flight movements at Schiphol
The Dutch State’s decision to reduce the number of flight movements at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 to 460,000 for the 2023/24 season is off the table. The Noord-Holland court ruled that the State did not follow the correct procedure before announcing the contraction at Schiphol in a lawsuit filed by KLM and other airlines.
The 2023/24 season refers to the period from November 2023 through October 2024, when the Cabinet wanted to cut the number of flights to 460,000. It planned a further reduction to 440,000 flight movements per year after October 2024.
KLM and the other airlines argued that the State should have involved other stakeholders, including them, when making these plans. If the government had followed the proper European procedure, that would have happened. The airlines pointed out that they organize their business operations for the long term and should, therefore, be able to count on maintaining the current capacity of 500,000 flights per year.
The court ruled in the airlines’ favor, agreeing that the State did not follow the correct procedure to cut flights to 460,000 per year for the upcoming season. “According to European rules, the State can only reduce the number of air transport movements at an airport after going through a careful process,” the court said. That includes mapping out various options for reducing noise pollution and consulting stakeholders. “A reduction in the number of air transport movements is only permitted if it is clear that other measures to limit noise nuisance are insufficiently effective.”
The State has started the EU procedure to reduce the flight movements at the Amsterdam airport to 440,000 by 2024/25. If that is approved, it can reduce the number of flights to 440,000 as planned, the court said.
The lawsuit against the Dutch State was led by KLM. The State owns 9.3 percent of the Air France - KLM Group, the airline’s parent. It also holds a 70 percent stake in the Royal Schiphol Group, the airport’s parent company.
The ruling is separate from Schiphol’s recent announcement that it will ban all overnight flights, all private flights, and noisy outdated aircraft by the end of 2025. Overnight flights alone occur about 10,000 times per year.
The motive behind the airport’s and Cabinet’s plans is the same: to cut down on noise disturbances around the airport and reduce pollution levels. However, many airlines and vacation package operators have said that investment in newer, quieter, and cleaner aircraft is a better solution in the long term.
They also argue that they need the ability to operate at all hours of the day to make more use of their airplanes, which both pays for the costs to obtain and maintain them, while keeping airfare at a more affordable level.