THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government said Tuesday it has abandoned, for now, plans to rein in flights at Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol Airport following protests from countries including the United States and warnings that the move could breach European law and aviation agreements.
The government last year announced plans to reduce the number of flights from 500,000 to 460,000 at Schiphol, one of Europe’s busiest aviation hubs.
In a letter to lawmakers Minister for Infrastructure and Water Mark Harbers said the first phase of the plan, for 2024, was being shelved “until further notice” and at least pending a decision by the country’s Supreme Court.
A lower court in May blocked plans to reduce the number of flights but an appeals court in Amsterdam later overturned that decision.
A Supreme Court ruling is expected in the second quarter of 2024.
Schiphol said in a statement it was “disappointed by the recent developments, as local residents are getting the short end of the stick.”
The planned cuts were intended to reduce noise pollution for residents near the airport on Amsterdam’s southern outskirts.
Schiphol said the decision would lead to “more uncertainty, including for the aviation sector itself. It is time that hindrance for local residents is noticeably reduced.”
In his letter to lawmakers, Harbers wrote that U.S. authorities had called the reduction in flights “unjust, discriminatory and anti-competitive for airlines.”
Aviation group Airlines for America welcomed the decision and expressed gratitude to the U.S. government for “issuing a very strong order outlining the violations of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.” It said that the order and government-to-government discussions held this week with the Dutch and the European Union “were instrumental to persuading the Dutch government to this successful outcome.”
The group said it “remains committed to addressing both the needs of passengers and shippers while continuing to focus on reaching aviation’s global climate goals, including reducing noise pollution.
Dutch airline KLM called the decision to shelve the plan “an important step to prevent retaliation and to continue flying to the US.”
KLM said in a statement it has agreed to a number of announced measures, including a “cleaner, quieter and more economical plan, to accelerate the reduction of noise pollution,” adding it shares the government’s environmental concerns and is “fully committed to reducing its environmental footprint.”
Environmental groups in the Netherlands, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, called the decision “shocking.”
“There is so much at stake here. As a result, local residents are left in the lurch and the climate is further heated,” the groups wrote.
“This is a major setback, but the number of flights will have to be reduced to make the Netherlands livable and to tackle the climate crisis,” they added.