The outgoing cabinet is to press ahead with plans to cut the number of landings at Schiphol airport in the face of fierce resistance from the aviation sector, Dutch media report.
Transport minister Mark Harbers rejected calls to postpone the decision until a new government is sworn in. However, the proposed ceiling has been raised to 452,000 flights a year from next November rather than 440,000.
Schiphol will still have to reduce flight movements from 500,000 a year to a maximum of 460,000 from April, the Volkskrant said, citing anonymous sources. Harbers also rejected plans by the airport’s management to ban night flights and private jets to reduce noise pollution.
But the Telegraaf said the US department of transport is threatening retaliatory measures against KLM if the cuts led to fewer slots at Schiphol for transatlantic flights.
The newspaper quoted a letter from officials urging the Dutch parliament to declare the cutbacks controversial, meaning caretaker ministers would not be able to implement them until a new government is sworn in after the election.
They said that agreements between KLM and US airlines would come up for review if Harbers’s plans go ahead.
“That means that if the minister imposes his will, KLM will not only have to reduce the number of flights, but will not be able to choose which one, because countries such as the US, Canada, China and Brazil will restrict KLM’s access to their airports,” they wrote.
Airlines lost a court battle earlier this year to block the first stage of the flight reduction plan, but the second phase, from 460,000 to 440,000 flights, remains controversial.
European rules require governments to take a balanced approach, considering both environmental protection and the interests of maintaining a well-run transport network. All parties, including airlines, environmental groups and local residents, are entitled to have their say. Brussels also has to approve the plan.
The government had to produce its draft plans by September 12 to give other parties enough time to lodge objections and finalise the measures before next summer.
KLM said the government should postpone the cutbacks because the case still has to be heard by the Supreme Court, while travel trade organisation Iata says it may seek a fresh injunction to block the plan.
“The experimental rule is being considered by the courts. For that reason alone it seems clear that parliament should declare it controversial,” a spokesman for KLM said.
“Moreover, the minister is implementing the ruling as a stepping-stone towards bigger cutbacks. The EU is very clear on this: reducing the number of airline movements can only be implemented as a last resort.”
Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl.
We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.Make a donation