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One of Europe's busiest airports is slashing emissions by banning private jet and night flights

a blue and white KLM plane faces nose first into an airport window with  rows of seats on both sides
Image Credit: Unsplash / Oskar Kadaksoo

Last year the Netherlands made the bold move to cut the capacity of the Schiphol Airport, an Amsterdam hub, by 20% because of its noise pollution. According to Bloomberg, at the time, the global airline lobby described it as a “shocking blow” to aviation, jobs, and the economy, and even fought against the ruling well into this month, kicking off a court battle between the airport and the Dutch government.

Now, the airport is banning all private jet flights and night flights in an effort to reduce its noise and CO2 emissions. The move is an effort to comply with reductions suggested by the Paris climate accord.

Initially, the Dutch government’s goal was to reduce the number of flights to 460,000 this year with the ultimate goal of reducing the capacity to 440,000 by 2024. The Schiphol Airport is one of the busiest international airports in the world, bested only by airports in Dubai and Istanbul for international passengers.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport was launching hundreds of thousands of flights a day, totaling over half a million flights for the year 2019, making up over 80% of flights in the entire country. Of the over 80 million people flown in and out of the Netherlands, nearly 72 million were coming through Schiphol.

For comparison, that’s close to the magnitude of the Los Angeles airport, LAX, which served about 88 million passengers in 2019, and the Netherlands—an entire country—is nearly the size of just southern California.

After the government bid to limit Schiphol’s flights, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM called the government’s decision to cut back operations “unnecessary,” saying it violates national, European, and international legislation.

KLM, which accounts for 60% of Schiphol’s flights, and a fleet of other airlines took the government to court. Now, as a last-ditch effort to avoid the cap, the airport is ditching night and private jet flights.

At Schiphol, aircrafts will no longer take off between midnight and 6 A.M. nor will they land between midnight and 5 A.M. As the airline said in a Tuesday release, the move is an effort to make Schiphol “quieter, cleaner, and better” and “put people first.”

“Schiphol connects the Netherlands with the rest of the world. We want to keep doing that, but we must do it better,” Ruud Sondag, CEO of Royal Schiphol Group said in a statement.

“We have thought about growth but too little about its impact for too long. We need to be sustainable for our employees, the local environment, and the world,” he added. “I realize that our choices may have significant implications for the aviation industry, but they are necessary.”

According to the airport, the changes mean 10,000 fewer flights a year, which brings it closer to the Dutch government’s initial cap. Royal Schiphol Group reports that private jets and small business aviation cause a disproportionate amount of noise nuisance and CO2 emissions per passenger. How much more? Around 20 times more CO2 compared to a commercial flight.

The airport says that the majority of its private jet trips are for holidays to destinations like Ibiza, Cannes, and Innsbruck, which can be fulfilled by commercial flights.

Additionally, they don’t plan to build any additional runways and will annually invest €10 million ($10,898,350) in the local environment and residents. They plan to enact all measures no later than between 2025 and 2026.

“This shows we mean business,” Sondag said. “It is the only way, based on concrete measures, to regain the trust of employees, passengers, neighbors, politics, and society.”

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