Schiphol movements cap put on hold

What a bitter slap in the face for the Dutch government! The Hague was forced to postpone its plan to reduce the number of flight movements at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 annually to 452,000 as originally intended. This will apply from 31MAR24 until further notice. Both the U.S. and the EU undermined the legal basis for their stop signal, much to the satisfaction of Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN).

Slot cuts at SCL are off the table for now – courtesy Amsterdam Airport

The decision to keep things as they are for the moment, was communicated by a letter from the Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, Mark Habers, to the Second Chamber. The politician reminds of the fact that his decision was already the subject of legal action by both KLM and IATA, including a cassation appeal, the result of which is not to be expected before the second term of 2024.

Government has put slot cuts on the backburner
On top of this, both Canada and the U.S. have expressed their concern about the capacity reduction at Schiphol. In a letter dated 02NOV23, the American DoT issued an order making clear that the continuation of the plans for capping movements, without following the so-called ‘balanced approach’, would be regarded as a violation of the EU regulation and the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement of 2007.

The said approach implies that noise reduction cannot be enforced by merely capping movements. Before doing so, the enforcing authorities have to prove that they have also tried all other options and demonstrate that these have not worked.

The U-turn taken by the Dutch government regarding the intended slot cuts was communicated by a letter from the Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management, Mark Habers, to the House of Representatives (Second Chamber). In his note, the politician reminds of the fact that his decision was already the subject of legal action by both KLM and IATA, including a cassation appeal, the result of which is not to be expected before the second term of 2024.

U.S. retaliation
In the eyes of the U.S., capacity reduction would be unfair, discriminatory, and anti-competitive. Washington has made it clear that the order of 02NOV23 would be the first step in a series of counter measures.

It stipulates that Dutch airline companies must share their flight schedules in advance with the U.S. authorities. Further counter measures could be a second step. These views, which are actually a threat, were repeated and explained during a Special Joint Committee meeting under the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement on 13NOV23.

Secondly, also on 13NOV23, Mr. Hamers received a letter from EU Transport Commissioner, Adina Vălean, who expressed her extreme concerns about the balanced approach not being followed. This would enable the European Commission to start an infraction procedure against The Netherlands for violating the EU regulation.

ACN advocates broadly supported scheme
Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) is happy that the Schiphol cap has been put on hold. “Earlier, we already made it clear that the chosen path to noise reduction at Schiphol is not the right and most efficient one,” ACN says in its comment. “The parties involved must now avoid standing back-to-back. We must collaborate towards a quieter and cleaner air transport. This mission remains firm and could be part of the broadly supported Sustainable Aviation Table [ms: a collaboration platform bringing together the airports, airlines, knowledge institutes, fuel producers and the manufacturing industry.]

ACN further commits itself to the protection of a number of slots for cargo aircraft at the leading national airport. “A strategic protection which has also been inscribed into Schiphol’s 8-point plan. Because, even without the cap, the demand for slots at Schiphol exceeds the availability, which may lead to a repression of cargo aircraft.”

Not to be forgotten, is the fact that Mr. Habers is part of a caretaker government. On the eve of the parliamentary elections in The Netherlands on 22NOV23, the issue will be moved to the agenda of the new government.

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