Dutch government U-turn over Amsterdam Schiphol flight cap

Plans to limit flights at Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol airport have been put on ice by the Dutch government.

The about-turn follows protests from countries including the US and warnings that the move could breach European law and aviation agreements.

The government last year announced plans to reduce the number of flights from 500,000 to 460,000 at Schiphol, one of Europe’s busiest aviation hubs.

In a letter to lawmakers minister for infrastructure and water Mark Harbers said the first phase of the plan, for 2024, was being shelved “until further notice” and at least pending a decision by the country’s Supreme Court, the AP news agency reported.

Harbers said the decision to abandon the cap came after the US Department of Transportation last month issued an order indicating that the capacity reduction would be “unfair, discriminatory and anti-competitive” for airlines.

Iata director general Willie Walsh welcomed “this outbreak of common sense” from the Dutch government.

He added: “Maintaining Schiphol’s capacity is good news for jobs, the economy, traveller choice and convenience, and better trade relations.”

Walsh had warned that cutting flights at the Dutch hub would harm KLM, with its slots potentially being restricted at US airports.     

A lower court blocked plans to reduce the number of flights in May but an appeals court in Amsterdam overturned that decision two months later.

The airport confirmed the suspension of what it described as an “experimental ruling” and voiced disappointment as local residents “are getting the short end of the stick”.

A statement from Schiphol added: “Reducing the number of flights is not a goal in itself for us, but the experimental ruling did provide clarity and certainty for local residents. 

“Moreover, falling back on ‘anticipatory enforcement’ leads to more uncertainty, including for the aviation sector itself. 

“It is time that hindrance for local residents is noticeably reduced. The importance of a night closure of Schiphol is now becoming even more imminent. 

“This also applies to the other measures in our eight-point plan, such as the ban on private flights and the banning of the noisiest aircraft.”

The airport announced in April plans to phase out all flights between midnight and 5am, ban private jets and abandon an additional runway project. 

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