After more than a year of legal battles between the Dutch government and airlines over the plan of capping daily flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, infrastructure minister Mark Harbers finally announced through a letter to Parliament that the “Experimental Regulation” will not be going ahead after all.
In August, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that, had the current caretaker government of the country pushed the regulation through, it could have resulted “in retaliatory international action and further legal challenges, including from governments defending their rights under international agreements and bilateral treaties”.
As it turns out, soon after IATA’s warning, the US Department of Transportation threatened to take retaliatory action since the cap would have affected the connectivity between the US and Europe, thus breaching the EU – US Open Skies Agreement. Another cautioning came from European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, who expressed “serious concerns” in a letter to the Dutch government about whether the cap had been properly vetted.
We welcome this outbreak of common sense from the Dutch government.Willie Walsh, IATA Director General
While Harbers called the decision to cave in a “bitter pill for the environment”, IATA Director General, Willie Walsh, called it an “outbreak of common sense”. “Maintaining Schiphol’s capacity is good news for jobs, the economy, traveller choice & convenience, and better trade relations”, Walsh said.
On the other hand, Schiphol Airport itself said it was “disappointed by the recent developments, as local residents are getting the short end of the stick”, while Greenpeace called the suspension of the regulation a “heavy setback” for the climate crisis.
However, airlines have repeatedly committed to working with he government on reducing noise pollution around the airport and cutting their carbon footprint, but through employing newer aircraft and technology rather than cutting operations.
The plan of cutting Schiphol Airport’s operations by around 20% was announced in July 2022, in an effort to reduce noise pollution. A maximum limit of 460,000 flights at the hub was to be introduced in November 2023 and of 440,000 by the end of 2024.
The measure went back and forth, IATA challenging the legality of the measure for breaking EU law and bilateral air services agreements connected with the Balanced Approach to noise. A first court ruled against the “Experimental Regulation”, while the Court of Appeal concluded that, since the measure was experimental, it was not subject to EU regulation, thus ruled in favour of the government.