Lelystad Airport: Developing an airport in the Flevopolder

Air traffic at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has increased markedly in recent years. We agreed to a ceiling of 500,000 air transport movements until 1 November 2020, but that limit has already been reached. In the Alders Agreement it was stated that there is an urgent need for alternatives, particularly to accommodate holiday air traffic that doesn’t have to fly to and from Schiphol. The development of the regional airport at Lelystad into an international airport for holiday destinations is currently the subject of animated discussion.

Holiday traffic

An agreement called the Alders Agreement was reached about the development of Lelystad Airport in October 2008. It included an agreement to distribute air traffic, which means that Schiphol must not host more than 500,000 air transport movements before the 1 November 2020. Based on the demand for flights in the future, 70,000 flight services known as ‘holiday flights’ must be moved to Lelystad Airport and Eindhoven Airport because they do not necessarily have to leave from a mainport.

For Eindhoven, this meant an expansion in the number of flight services. However, Lelystad needed a complete transformation from a regional airfield into an international airport for commercial air traffic. Opening Lelystad Airport to holiday flight services was intended to create room at Schiphol for the development of mainport bound air traffic.

Ready to open

Extensive consultation with all those involved, including local residents, municipalities and the aviation sector. After that, the plans for Lelystad Airport were agreed and the Lelystad Airport Decree was finalised in 2015. That meant we could get started on developing the airport. Since then, the runways have been extended and widened and the air traffic control tower is now taller. The terminal is also ready to receive its first travellers. All the activities were geared towards an opening date of 1 April 2018 for Lelystad Airport. Unfortunately, the opening was delayed by a year at the end of 2016 due to the redistribution of the air space. The infrastructure is ready.

Flight paths

Lelystad Airport found itself in difficulties early in 2018. That was a result of the expected flight paths and calculation errors in the environmental impact assessment (MER) that had been carried out in 2014. The MER included the redistribution of the relevant air space, but had not been completed by the intended opening date. That means that the aircraft will temporarily fly lower than had been calculated beforehand, which may impact the local community. The minister decided to delay the opening even further due to dissatisfaction resulting from the temporary flight paths compounded with the additional pressure on the redistribution of the air space.

Airport Decree

Lelystad Airport’s opening for passenger traffic depends on approval in the form of an amended Airport Decree (in Dutch: Luchthavensbesluit) as to whether or not this goes ahead. To this end, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management submitted a revised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Lelystad in 2018. There were changes to the 'noise assessment' in the new EIA, since the number of local residents affected by aircraft noise turned out to be smaller than initially thought. Based on these evaluations, the number of aircraft movements in Lelystad is capped at 45,000 a year. The Airport Decree was approved by the Council of Ministers at the end of 2018. It must now undergo a public advisory procedure in order to come into effect in September or October 2019.

Nitrogen approach and traffic distribution rule

The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management announced in early July that Lelystad Airport’s planned opening in April 2020 would again be postponed. The reason for the postponement is the lack of clarity about the Programme Aanpak Stikstof (PAS, or ’Nitrogen Approach Programme’), which the ministry is looking for a hard solution for. The traffic distribution rule, which was still in Brussels for review, was approved by the European Commission at the end of September 2019. As a result of the corona crisis in 2020 and the additional advice of the m.e.r. Committee (environmental impact assessment) on nitrogen emission calculations for Lelystad Airport, the opening has been postponed to November 2021.

More hot topics