1. Why does Harbers actually want the number of flights to go down?
He wants to tackle the noise pollution of the airport. And he wants to do that, among other things, by allowing fewer flights. At the moment, 500,000 flights per year are allowed to take off or land at Schiphol. If it is up to the cabinet, it will go to 460,000 flights per year in November. And then in 2024 to 440,000.
2. What are the airline companies protesting against?
Downsizing at the airport and the way Harbers wants to achieve this. The case was brought by Delta Airlines, Corendon, Easyjet and TUI with KLM Group as the leader of the bunch. Logical, because that airline accounts for about 60 percent of all flights to and from the country’s largest airport.
Trade association Barin supports the cause. There is still a lawsuit filed by the aviation organization IATA. They have more or less the same complaints as the KLM case.
3. What are their main objections?
That the ministry has not acted carefully and is going way too fast. The airline feels overwhelmed by the cabinet’s intention.
According to the airlines, the minister should have first investigated alternatives to limit noise nuisance. Shrinkage should only be put on the table as a last option.
Harbers is accused of giving the sector and other parties the opportunity to think along. This is done via a so-called ‘Balanced Approach Procedure’ required by the European Union.
Harbers started the procedure last week to reduce from 460,000 to 440,000 flights. Salient detail: this also includes an option in which the number of flights can remain at 500,000 by allowing fewer night flights.
4. Do the companies have a point?
Professor of aviation law Pablo Mendes de Leon of Leiden University thinks so. Limiting the number of flights ‘is not an easy task,’ he says. “There are all kinds of rules for that (…) and they have to be followed. And I don’t think that happened.”
He refers, among other things, to the ‘Balanced Approach Procedure’. “It was only very partially followed here,” says Mendes de Leon. And that is necessary, according to the professor. The fact that the minister has not done so is also one of the most important arguments that the sector wants to throw into the fight.
According to the sector, combating noise nuisance is only an argument to achieve the actual goal: reducing the number of flights. “The goal does not seem to be the noise problem, but the shrinkage,” Mendes de Leon expresses the sentiment in the aviation industry.
5. It won’t start until November, so why the rush?
In April, the slots for the period from November 1 to October 31 of next year will be distributed. If there are fewer than now, the airlines must take this into account in the number of tickets they sell.
6. How do they view the case at the ministry?
The ministry does not want to comment on the content of the lawsuits in advance. “Everyone is free to submit a case to a judge, who must ultimately judge whether we have done our homework properly,” Harbers said about it, although he also notes that “fortunately, in many places in the Netherlands, good conversation is also helps’.
7. And local residents? Surely they are happy?
Yes and no. The fact that the government wants to take a stricter approach to the airport is of course good news. Due to the interests of local residents, a foundation that represents their interests is an official party to the proceedings. But at the same time, that foundation (Right to Protection against Aircraft Nuisance, RBV) has also filed a lawsuit against the ministry.
According to the RVB, Harbers’ plan does not go far enough. The noise levels that Schiphol should adhere to should be those of the World Health Organization WHO. According to the foundation, this is less than 400,000. Harbers is therefore caught between the sector and residents.
8. Will there be a ruling immediately?
No, the verdict is not expected for more than two weeks.
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