IATA Calls Schiphol Court Decision A ‘Reprieve’

IATA is hailing the Dutch court’s decision to uphold the 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.

Willie Walsh, director general of IATA, said: “We welcome the judge’s decision. This case has been about upholding the law and international obligations. The judge has understood that the Dutch government violated its obligations in shortcutting processes that would bring scrutiny to its desire to cut flight numbers at Schiphol. This decision gives vital stability for this year to the airlines using Schiphol airport and maintains the choice and connectivity passengers value.”

Walsh continued: “Winning this vital reprieve is good news for Schiphol’s passengers, Dutch businesses, the Dutch economy and airlines. But the job is not done. The threat of flight cuts at Schiphol remains very real and is still the stated policy of the government. Schiphol airport themselves yesterday announced night flight cuts without consultation.”

He pointed out that: “Airlines understand the importance of resolving issues such as noise. The Balanced Approach is the correct EU and global legally-enshrined process for managing noise impacts. It has helped airports around the world successfully address this issue.”

The legal challenge arose as a result of the Dutch government’s decision to reduce the number of flight movements at Schiphol from 500,000 to 440,000 per year.

IATA believed that no legal basis existed for this reduction, arguing that it violated international treaties and European regulations. Governments can lower the number of flight movements in order to reduce noise, but only after having after a careful process, consisting of e.g. assessing the current noise level, setting a noise goal and considering alternative measures.

The airline industry association pointed out that this did not occur. The 440,000 cap is not a means to an end, but the objective. The Dutch government also sought to accelerate the implementation of this reduction by introducing an experimental regulation with an interim cap of 460,000 flight movements from 1 November 2023. We believed this interim cap is also subject to – and therefore in violation of — international treaties and European regulations.

As a result, IATA and airlines that fly into Schiphol sought to halt the application of this experimental regulation. KLM and other carriers based at Schiphol have launched a similar legal action. The carriers that joined IATA’s action were Air Canada, United Airlines, FedEx, JetBlue, British Airways, Vueling, Lufthansa, and Airlines for America.

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