News: Minister suspends experimental regulation

The experimental regulation, that was to set a limit of 460,000 flight movements at Schiphol as of 31 March 2024, has been suspended. That was announced by Minister Harbers of Infrastructure & Water Management (I&W) this week. Read what is happening, what the consequences are and our perspective here.

Published on: 16 November 2023

In the summer of 2022, I&W announced that the number of flights to and from Schiphol needed to decrease from 500,000 to 440,000 per year. But this cannot be done just like that. The Dutch government must follow European regulations, the so-called Balanced Approach procedure.

Other measures

This procedure takes a lot of time. To reduce nuisance to local residents in the meanwhile, the minister decided to implement a number of measures already. One of those was the termination of anticipatory enforcement, which was the reason behind the creation of the experimental regulation. This regulatory scheme determined that there was capacity for a maximum of 460,000 flight movements at Schiphol.

Various reasons

Now, however, the minister has announced that the scheme is being suspended. He says there are various reasons for that. Firstly, several airlines are currently filing a lawsuit against the regulation. In addition, the United States and Canada are considering countermeasures that could affect Dutch airlines. Decisive for the minister's decision, according to him, was a letter from European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean in which she expressed serious doubts as to whether the scheme is in accordance with European laws and regulations.

This was reason enough for the government to provisionally suspend the implementation of the experimental regulation, at least until after the Supreme Court's ruling in the lawsuit against it. This is not expected until the second quarter of 2024 or later.

Impact on capacity

Naturally, the minister's decision has an impact on capacity at Schiphol. However, we had already defined the capacity declaration for summer 2024 based on a maximum of 460,000 flights. That is why the minister has asked Schiphol and partners including Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL), the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, Customs and the airlines to determine what we can still do in an operationally responsible way. He also indicated that the (increasingly limited) availability of air traffic controllers at LVNL, caused by shortages in the labour market, will also play a role. Once all the data from the parties involved have been collated, Schiphol will make an addendum to the capacity declaration. It is then up to the slot coordinator to issue any available additional slots.

Short end of the stick

In our view, the suspension of the experimental regulation is a disappointing development that leads to local residents getting the short end of the stick. Lowering the number of flights was not an end in itself for Schiphol, but there was finally clarity and certainty for our neighbours. Going back to anticipatory enforcement leads to more uncertainty, also for the aviation sector. We therefore believe that a night curfew and other measures in our 8-point plan, such banning private jets and the noisiest aircraft, are more crucial than ever.