By Vyte Klisauskaite
Following the decision from the Dutch government to reduce the capacity of Schiphol International Airport (AMS), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and global airlines are launching a legal challenge citing violations of EU regulations and international agreements.
Schiphol, the main international airport of the Netherlands and one of the busiest airports in Europe, is currently limited to 500,000 flights annually. However, the airport continued to struggle to cope with the demand throughout 2022, notably due to recurring staff shortages and the sudden resumption of traffic, leading to major disruptions.
Thus, in June 2022, the Dutch authorities announced they would cut the number of annual flight movements further to 460,000 from November 2023, and 440,000 the next year. Officially, the decision to limit the number of flights was based on concerns regarding noise and air pollution.
Tempers flaring between KLM and The Hague
The United States-based low-cost carrier JetBlue was among the first to step up. In February 2023, after it failed to obtain slots to fly into the Dutch capital city, the carrier asked the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate “anti-competitive” and “discriminatory” measures that violated the US-EU “Open Skies” Air Transport Agreement.
But the most significant complaint comes from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the cornerstone airline of Schiphol. On March 3, 2023, the Dutch carrier announced it joined forces with Delta Air Lines, Corendon, easyJet, and TUI to bring legal action against the government. The airlines are protesting against an “incomprehensible” measure and are convinced of being able to reduce noise and CO2 emissions while maintaining the current number of flights. Marjan Rintel, CEO KLM, said:
“We are embracing the targets set for reducing noise levels and CO2 emissions, investing billions in fleet renewal and SAF procurement that will ultimately supersede these targets while maintaining our network that serves 170 destinations worldwide. This is good news for the millions of people who fly from the Netherlands with KLM every year whether for business or leisure and for the cargo industry. As the government appears not to hear our call, unfortunately we find ourselves compelled to take legal action.”
IATA steps in
IATA joined the legal action, claiming that “this political decision by the Dutch government contravenes EU Regulation 598/2014 on noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports.”
The requirements of EU Regulation 598/2014 and the Balanced Approach include consultation with affected parties, using flight reductions only as a last resort, and balancing the interests of local residents, the environment, and the local economy with aviation's economic and social benefits.
According to IATA, the decision to reduce Schiphol's capacity does not meet these requirements since there was no meaningful consultation with the industry, flight reductions were imposed as a first resort instead of a last resort, and it fails to address the economic damage inflicted on the aviation industry in the Netherlands by the pandemic.
Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General:
“The Netherlands is handicapping its economy by destroying connectivity. And it is doing it in contravention of EU law and its international obligations. The job-destroying hostile approach to aviation that the Dutch government has chosen is a totally disproportionate response to managing noise. [...] The dangerous precedent that this illegal approach creates left no choice but to challenge them in court.”
This article originally appeared on Simple Flying. All rights belong to Simple Flying.