Starting late next year, the Dutch government will cut the maximum number of flights allowed each year at Schiphol Airport to help cut down on noise and air pollution.
The decision will take the number of flights to the country’s busiest airport from around 500,000 to 440,000. This is another blow to the airport that has seen chaos over the past several weeks due to security staff shortages, creating hours-long lines of passengers waiting to board flights.
Due to these shortages, Schiphol says it will have to cut the number of passengers it can handle each day by around 13,500 over the busy summer months.
The airport has been growing for years, becoming a busy European hub and a significant driver of economic growth in the Netherlands. The government says that growth needs to be reined in as it looks for ways to cut emissions of carbon and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide.
“I want to offer certainty and perspective to both the aviation sector and local residents,” Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Harbers said. “This decision forms the basis for a new equilibrium. Unfortunately, it contains a difficult message for the aviation sector, which is still fully recovering from the drastic consequences of the corona[virus] pandemic.”
Schiphol said in a written reaction that it supports a “well-thought-out approach” that leads to the airport’s stated goal of “connecting the Netherlands with the world as an increasingly quieter and cleaner Schiphol.”
The plans do, however, “lead to great uncertainty and much remains unclear,” wrote Schiphol. “We see that major risks are being taken with regard to the quality of the network.”
The environmental group Greenpeace hailed the decision as a historic turning point.
“It is good that the Cabinet realizes that Schiphol has, for years, been flying beyond all boundaries when it comes to noise, nitrogen, ultra-fine particles, and the climate,” Greenpeace aviation expert Dewi Zloch said in a statement. “This is an impetus for Schiphol to finally come up with a plan that takes into account the Paris Climate Agreement.”
In a blog post, the airport discussed the reduction of flights this summer to avoid extremely long queues and missed flights. It does not mention cutting down noise or air pollution, but rather “there are too few security employees to check all the travelers who want to fly this summer.”
“Not intervening would mean unmanageable queues and many travelers would miss their flight,” the post continued. “That would lead to unsafe situations for both travelers and staff.”
It’s not possible to say how many flights would be impacted.
Schiphol is Europe’s third busiest airport, handling more than 70 million passengers a year. It’s the main international airport of the Netherlands.
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