Various research agencies hired by the government concluded that the substantiation for the decision to shrink Schiphol was “arbitrary and one-sided.” But Minister Mark Harbers and his Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management ignored their advice, Het Parool reports based on internal documents.
Last summer, Harbers announced that Schiphol’s maximum flight movements would decrease from 500,000 per year to 440,000 per year, so air traffic would remain within the noise limits. The number is partly based on advice from the Living Environment and Transport Inspectorate from December 2021, which warned about lawsuits because the airport has been exceeding noise limits for years. The Ministry said that the number of essential destinations directly reachable from Schiphol would not suffer from a 60,000 cut to Schiphol’s flight movements.
But several independent research agencies that have been advising the Ministry on aviation for years raised serious doubts about the substantiation of Harbers’ plans – doubts which Harbers disregarded, according to the newspaper. For example, the Ministry set the maximum flight movements based on the GAWC index – a list of world cities crucial to the Dutch economy. But according to the SEO, a relationship between that index and necessary flight connections from the Netherlands has never been demonstrated and is therefore “highly arbitrary.” SEO, part of the Univerity of Amsterdam, urged the Ministry to research the actual flight demand instead.
CE Delft and Erasmus UPT also questioned the list of destinations. The government focused mainly on the Dutch economy, companies, and business travelers – as it has been doing with Schiphol for decades. But business travelers are only a third of the passengers that travel through Schiphol every year.
Focus on economically important destinations underestimates Schiphol’s importance for holiday travelers. The crucial destinations list doesn’t include popular tourist cities like Faro, Heraklion, or Antalya. The government also overlooked freight traffic, which accounts for a quarter of Schiphol’s economic value to the Netherlands. And it doesn’t pay enough attention to the importance of transferring passengers at Schiphol. According to the aviation sector, travelers who transfer from one plane to another at Schiphol are crucial to keeping the majority of intercontinental destinations and many European routes operating profitably.
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate the Cabinet’s plans to shrink Schiphol on Wednesday.