Court blocks Amsterdam Schiphol's plan to curb flights

A Dutch court has blocked a plan by Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to reduce flight operations during 2023-24 from 500,000 to 460,000.

The ruling, issued Wednesday by the North-Holland District Court, follows legal challenges brought forward by KLM, Delta and other carriers, as well as by trade groups IATA and Airlines for America. 

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management had moved to curb flight activity in Amsterdam in order to reduce noise nuisance and emissions. The cut to 460,000 flights would have been in effect from November 2023 through October 2024. The ministry is also pursuing a longer-term plan to limit annual operations at Schiphol to 440,000 beginning in 2024-25. 

The ruling of the Dutch court does not impact that longer-term plan. But the court concluded that the transport ministry had failed to follow the procedures required to enact the 2023-24 cut. 

“According to European rules, the State may reduce the number of air transport movements of an airport only after completing a careful process,” reads a press release issued by the court. “That process includes: the state is required to identify various measures that may reduce the noise, the state needs to consult all interested parties, and reducing the number of air transport movements is allowed only once other measures to curtail noise have proven insufficiently effective.”

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The court also noted that the state has begun exercising the procedures that would be required to reduce flights at Amsterdam airport in 2024-25.

In a statement Wednesday, IATA director general Willie Walsh said the decision will give stability this year for airlines flying to Amsterdam, while maintaining connectivity for passengers. 

“Winning this vital reprieve is good news for Schiphol’s passengers, Dutch businesses, the Dutch economy and airlines,” Walsh said. “But the job is not done. The threat of flight cuts at Schiphol remains very real and is still the stated policy of the government.”

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