Dutch Government Suspends Shiphol Airport Capacity Cut Plans

Today, the Dutch government announced that it was halting the Experimental Ruling regarding the capacity cuts at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.



November 14, 2023

DALLAS — Today, the Dutch government announced that it was halting the Experimental Ruling regarding the capacity cuts at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS).

The airport expressed its disappointment with the decision. AMS believes that local residents are being negatively affected. While reducing the number of flights is not its main objective, the Experimental Ruling did bring clarity and certainty to the local community, the airport said.

Additionally, AMS argues that relying on "anticipatory enforcement" creates more uncertainty, including for the "aviation industry itself." The airport went on to say that it was crucial to significantly reduce the disturbance for local residents, making the implementation of a nighttime closure, the prohibition of private flights, and the phasing out of the noisiest aircraft an urgent matter.

The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water, Mark Harbers, stated in the government notice that the Cabinet knew that suspending the cessation of anticipatory enforcement and the experimental regime (track 1) was "a bitter pill for the environment."

"I emphasize that the government is committed to restoring the balance between Schiphol and its living environment," continued the minister. "This remains an urgent task to which we are fully committed. Work will continue unabated in the coming period within track 2 (balanced approach procedure) to reduce noise pollution from Schiphol. The House will be informed of further developments in the periodic progress letters on the Schiphol Airport Environment Program."

Mr. Harbers added that the decision "was taken after renewed consideration of the interplay between the pending cassation appeal and the possible infraction proceedings."

Jetblue Airbus A321-200N(LR) (N2060J). Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways
Jetblue Airbus A321-200N(LR) (N2060J). Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

Backlash from the West, EU Infractions

One of the main reasons mentioned for the suspension of the planned reduction of flights lies with Canada and the United States, along with other countries, which expressed their concerns about capacity cuts at the Dutch hub. On November 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order stating that the continuation of track 1 without following the balanced approach procedure violates EU rules and the 2007 US-EU Air Transport Agreement.

The United States views capacity reduction as unfair, discriminatory, and anti-competitive for airlines. This order requires Dutch airlines to share their flight schedules in advance with the U.S. government as the first step in countermeasures. A Special Joint Committee (SJC) under the US-EU Air Transport Agreement was held on November 13, 2023, "where the U.S. reiterated and explained this finding."

Furthermore, the connection to European law also became part of the cassation process. After receiving a letter from the European Commission, the Cabinet reevaluated whether to wait for the appeal before implementing track 1 of the plan.

Additionally, the European Commission's stance that continuing track 1 without following the balanced approach procedure is likely to be inconsistent with European law means that the Netherlands is in a solitary position. "Based on this standpoint," states Minister Harbers, the Cabinet decided to halt track 1, at least until the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on the appeal. It is anticipated that this ruling will not occur before the second quarter of 2024.

Featured image: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport with KLM aircraft seen from above. Photo: KLM