The International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), and European Regions Airline Association (ERA) have warned that the proposed cuts to flight numbers at Schiphol airport “must not proceed under the leadership of a caretaker government”.

In a statement, IATA said: “In a few months’ time, this government will not be accountable for the severe consequences that may follow from the Schiphol decision, particularly with respect to relations with the Netherlands’ trading partners, and lost jobs and prosperity at home.

“Such a consequential and controversial move requires proper democratic scrutiny and political accountability. The government’s desire for a forced cut to Schiphol’s annual flight numbers to 460,000 under an ‘Experimental Regulation’ was initially blocked by the Dutch court, which found it to be contrary to Dutch obligations under EU law and bilateral air services agreements connected with the Balanced Approach to noise.

“The Balanced Approach is a longstanding internationally agreed process to manage noise at airport communities that carries the weight of law in national jurisdictions, including in the EU and many of its trading partners. A core tenet of the Balanced Approach is that operational restrictions and flight cuts are the last resort, to be considered only when a number of other steps have been taken to achieve noise mitigation targets. The Balanced Approach is used specifically to ensure local community needs are respected, the wider benefits of air connectivity to the nation are protected, and the actions are respected internationally.”

Legal challenges over Schiphol flights

In April, a Dutch court upheld legal challenges lodged by IATA, KLM and other airlines against the Dutch government’s ‘experimental regulation’ to cut Schiphol airport’s flight limit to 460,000 from November 2023.

The government successfully appealed and overturned the initial decision, with the Court of Appeal deciding that the Balanced Approach does not apply to the Experimental Regulation.

The international airline community represented by IATA, other airline associations and individual carriers, has said it is deeply concerned by the implications of this decision.

“Flight cuts of this magnitude at Schiphol will mean reductions in slot holdings that will negatively impact passenger and freight services,” IATA said.

“No mechanism, domestic or international, exists for agreeing such cuts. Rushing this process through could result in retaliatory international action and further legal challenges, including from governments defending their rights under international agreements and bilateral treaties.”
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