Eight airlines will sue Dutch government to prevent Schiphol flight reductions

A group of airlines will file a lawsuit requesting an injunction against the Dutch government’s plan to cut down on the number of flight movements at Schiphol Airport, the largest airport in the Netherlands, and the second largest by passenger volume in the European Union. The airlines are highly critical of the plan to cut the number of flight movements by 8 percent this year, and further in 2024, which will see a total reduction of about 60,000 flights at the airport annually.

Those intending to join the lawsuit include all KLM Group airlines, Corendon, EasyJet, TUI, and Delta Air Lines, which holds nearly 3 percent in KLM’s parent company. The KLM Group airlines include KLM, Transavia, KLM Cityhopper, and cargo carrier Martinair. “The airlines maintain that the Dutch government’s unilateral and sudden decision to reduce Schiphol’s capacity from 500,000 to 460,000 flight annual movements (with the ultimate goal of reducing flight movements to 440,000 by 2024) is incomprehensible,” the airlines said in a joint statement on Friday.

The Cabinet’s plan to slash the number of flights at the airport is both for environmental reasons, but also to improve the quality of life for those living near the airport. However, the aviation industry said that the Cabinet is being shortsighted, and is breaking promises that led to the airlines making many extensive investments in recent years.

“The airlines are challenging the government’s unilateral decision to significantly cut flight movements at Schiphol, confident they can reduce noise levels and CO2 emissions while maintaining a network of destinations for the millions of passengers and tonnes of cargo they carry annually to and from Schiphol,” the aviation group said. “The airlines have already made multi-billion euros investments to meet near- and long-term goals in line with their own decarbonization trajectories as well as government policies, while the government’s justification hinges on operational restrictions with no consideration of alternative workable solutions to effect noise reduction.”

They accused the Cabinet of violating Dutch law, European law, and international rules in ordering the reduction without a more thorough assessment that includes the airlines’ position. The airlines also said that the Cabinet did not properly substantiate claims about noise and pollution levels in the present and the near-future. They are also supported by the BARIN association, which represents the interests of all airlines that operate in the Netherlands. It is a separate lawsuit from one planned by international aviation association IATA and a group of airlines represented by MARNIX.

“As the government appears not to hear our call, unfortunately we find ourselves compelled to take legal action,” said KLM CEO Marjan Rintel. She said this is despite efforts to improve aircraft and fuel procurement to meet the Cabinet’s targets without being forced to cutdown flights. KLM’s airlines represent about 60 percent of all traffic at Schiphol, serving 170 destinations globally.

The other airlines involved echoed those comments, with EasyJet pushing its own plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Transavia and Corendon both pointed out their investments in quieter aircraft, as well.

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