The Dutch government has today announced that it’s moving forward with a new “green” flight cap, with the plan being to implement it as of 2024. Let’s go over the details, and talk about what this means for airlines and travelers.
Amsterdam Schiphol proceeding with new flight cap
The Dutch government is making preparations to reduce flight capacity at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to 452,500 flights per year, which is bad news for airlines serving the airport (and in turn, for passengers). This policy is expected to be implemented as of 2024, though an exact date is subject to this plan being approved by the European Commission.
This means that some flights that are already on sale may need to be canceled. For context, this plan for Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was first announced by the Dutch government in June 2022. Just to recap some of the numbers:
- The airport can currently accommodate up to 500,000 flights per year
- The previous plan was for the airport to grow to 540,000 flights per year
- The new cap limits the airport to 454,500 flights per year
- In other words, this represents a reduction of 10% compared to the current cap, and a reduction of around 16% compared to what the cap was supposed to be in the future
This ban is intended as an environmental measure, as part of the Netherlands’ climate goals. As you’d expect, this got quite a bit of pushback from airlines. In April 2023, a Dutch court blocked this new flight cap, arguing that the government did not follow the correct procedure. That’s because the government unilaterally made the decision, and didn’t follow European Union rules that require consulting stakeholders, including airlines.
Unfortunately that was just temporary relief for airlines, and in July 2023 an appeals court ruled that the government could move forward with the new flight cap.
KLM isn’t happy about this new flight cap
KLM CEO Marjan Rintel has today issued a statement regarding the government’s plans:
We are proud of KLM’s contribution to the accessibility of the Netherlands, serving close to 170 direct destinations worldwide from our Schiphol hub. We satisfy the needs of millions of people wanting to discover places around the world – to conduct business, to reunite families and to transport critical cargo. We hope to continue doing so in balance with the local surroundings.
Minister Harbers asked us to reduce noise by 20%. To this end, we submitted the cleaner, quieter and more efficient plan. In it, we show that we can achieve the noise reduction targets while maintaining the current number of flight movements, maintaining the connection between the Netherlands as a trading nation and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, the minister remains fixated on capacity reductions.
It is hard to imagine such a drastic decision being taken by an outgoing government, while the Dutch House of Representatives is set to vote on 12 September about which files are to be declared controversial. As an outgoing minister, you don’t mind the shop by closing it!
This has major implications for airlines & passengers
While I can appreciate the desire to reduce emissions, I feel like this solution won’t actually accomplish a whole lot. Whether the Dutch government likes it or not, the global demand for air travel is continuing to grow over time:
- A lower flight cap will simply allow fewer nonstop links between Amsterdam and destinations around the globe, which isn’t good for the Dutch economy
- This will not only hurt airlines, but it will also translate to higher fares for consumers over time
- If the goal is to reduce emissions, how about instead restricting the types of planes flying to the airport? This cap will reduce flights by 10-16%, while new generation aircraft often have 20% reductions in emissions, which would have an even bigger impact
- Speaking of emissions, how about just adding some sort of a carbon offset tax with each ticket, used to fund projects that can have a positive impact on the environment?
- Climate change and environmental initiatives can’t really be viewed in isolation; this will simply cause traffic to be redirected through other airport hubs in the region
Only time will tell how this plays out. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the end of the saga…
The Dutch government plans to move forward with its new “green” flight cap for Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. With this, we’ll see flights at the airport reduced from 500,000 to 454,500 annually, representing a major reduction.
Now the European Commission needs to approve this plan, in which case we should see airlines start to slash their schedules at the airport.
What do you make of this new Dutch flight cap?