Amsterdam Begins Slashing Flights Next Summer

AMS - Amsterdam

The threat has been hanging out there, but it’s now official. Amsterdam Schiphol has released its capacity declaration for the 2024 summer season, and the number of slots available has dropped. This is just one part of the government’s efforts to make Schiphol “quieter, cleaner and better.” I’m not sure I agree that all three will be achieved.

Back in April, an eight-point plan was rolled out to make Schiphol green. Ok, it won’t actually make it green — it’s an airport — but it’s going to make it green…er. Let’s just walk through the plan and I’ll explain the recent updates along the way.

New rules with clear limits for noise and CO2 emissions

The idea here is to get away from the idea of limits based on the number of aircraft movements. By 2025/2026, Schiphol wants to be running based on noise and CO2 limits. This means quieter and more efficient airplanes will enable more flights to operate. This is not a bad idea in that it does push airlines to use their most efficient aircraft, and it adds pressure to manufacturers to keep making strides in efficiency. But we aren’t there yet. This is still a couple years away.

For now, Schiphol is just sticking with the idea of limiting aircraft movements. Next summer will be capped at 280,645 movements, a decrease of more than 12,000 or nearly 60 per day. This will keep Schiphol under its new self-imposed cap of 460,000 movements per year. What does that mean in reality? Well, let’s take a look.

Using Cirium data, I pulled scheduled aircraft movements by year going back to 2005. Then, assuming 2.5 percent of slots are to be reserved for cargo (as you’ll see down below), I set the cap at 448,500. And here’s the result:

Amsterdam Schiphol Scheduled Aircraft Movements

Data via Cirium

Schiphol easily exceeded those limits before the pandemic, and it is rapidly approaching them again. What this really comes down to is that there will be no growth potential in the future.

The noisiest aircraft are no longer welcome

This is actually rather laughable for the most part. Schiphol has now banned 87 different aircraft types from flying into the airport. As the airport explains:

These types of aircraft were already no longer flying to and from Schiphol, but the ban in the capacity declaration means that there is a guarantee that they cannot come back either.

I’m pretty sure there are other things that will prevent some of these airplanes from coming back. For example, the L-1011 is on this list. At last check, that sexy beast of an airplane had exactly one operational example left in the world, and it’s used to launch rockets by Orbital Sciences. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this airplane is on the list four times thanks to different variants being banned. I don’t think Schiphol has to worry.

There’s also a hilarious assortment of airplanes gone by including the Boeing 707 and 727, the BAC One-Eleven, the Douglas DC-8 and DC-10, the Fokker F28 (which I thought might get a pass as a Dutch product, even though no airline flies it), the Hawker Siddeley HS 748, and yes, the Lockheed L-100 Hercules. I haven’t even covered the former Soviet aircraft on the list, like the mighty Antonov An-30 which is definitely a real threat to return to Dutch skies…

The only ones on this list that might actually do something are the Boeing 767-200 Freighter (but only the freighter, for some reason), the Antonov An-124 freighter, and maybe the Douglas MD-82/83s. (The Antonov An-225 is also on this list, but we’ve all seen those terrible pictures showing that the Russians destroyed the only existing aircraft in the invasion of Ukraine.) But really, this is mostly for show and won’t have any impact.

No take-offs between 00:00 and 06:00, no landings between 00:00 and 05:00

Curfews are common at several major European airports, but Amsterdam is not one of them… yet. Now, the Dutch are saying that in the next couple of years, nothing can take off between midnight and 6am while nothing can land between midnight and 5am.

For passenger aircraft, this really isn’t a huge issue. There are some flights scheduled during those times, mostly on Dutch leisure airlines Transavia, Corendon Dutch, and TUIfly Netherlands. Those airlines seem to enjoy scheduling very early departures starting in the 4 o’clock hour and ramping up quickly in the 5 o’clock hour, almost entirely down to Mediterranean beach destinations. Having such an early departure gets travelers where they want to be early, but it also allows the airlines to drive up utilization. Those same airlines have arrivals after midnight for the same reasons.

Now, what I imagine will happen is those airlines will stop scheduling flights before 5:30am and will then just wait at the end of the runway until the clock turns 6. They will lose some productivity, but it’ll still be fine… unless it’s a hard curfew that forces airlines to divert if they are late. I suppose we’ll see.

Cargo, of course, loves to operate overnight, but that won’t be happening at Schiphol, at least not during those hours.

No more private jets and small business aviation at Schiphol 

Last year, Schiphol had a limit of 17,000 private jet operations. This year it will cut that down to 12,000 (with 7,200 in the summer season), on its way to an eventual zero. This doesn’t impact me in the slightest personally, but I’m sure some rich people will be particularly displeased.

What’s interesting about this one is that there isn’t really another airport that’s really close to Amsterdam — like a Teterboro near New York — for private jets. The nearest seems to be Lelystad Airport which is about a 40 minute drive into the center of Amsterdam. Rotterdam is also about 50 minutes away on the other side of town, to the southwest.

No additional runways 

Amsterdam loves its runways so much that it names them. There was a plan in place to build a parallel runway to the southern Kaagban runway that exists today (also known as 06/24). That is now going to be scrapped.

To be fair, Amsterdam still has six runways, including Polderbaan which was built in 2003 about 3,000 miles to the west of the terminals. I don’t imagine runways will be a factor with other restrictions in place anyway.

Annual investment of €10 million in local environment and residents

What does this mean? Go ahead and tell us, Schiphol…

Together with the central government, Schiphol is setting up an environmental fund for the local area. Between now and 2030, Schiphol will be making a total of €70 million (€10 million per year) available so that investments can be made in innovative construction concepts, home insulation and area development for an improved living environment.


Safeguarding cargo

This seems rather strange since Amsterdam is cutting back on night flights, but Amsterdam wants to make sure cargo can still flow. So, it is going to set aside 2.5 percent of slots specifically for cargo operations.

People first

This is one of those fluffy ones. I’ll let the airport explain:

Schiphol… considers it important that there are good terms and conditions of employment for everyone working at the airport. Schiphol is committed to better pay in all sectors, better protection of employees against emissions, less competition in the handling sector and an improvement in working conditions for all (baggage) handing employees.  

In the end, this will hurt Amsterdam’s ability to grow as a global hub. Maybe things will change in the future when the restrictions end up being based on environmental limits instead of hard caps on movements. But for now, this seems like a risky move.

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26 comments on “Amsterdam Begins Slashing Flights Next Summer

  1. For a city/area that largely built its fortunes on trading and finance over many centuries, Amsterdam sure is going out of its way to scare away businesses by forcibly cutting back on flights and making it harder for people to get there and do business.

    As for private/business aviation… I foresee a dramatic increase in emissions by gas-guzzling helicopters and limousines (or would it be ‘kerosene-guzzling helicopters’ and ‘diesel-guzzling large saloon cars’? this is Europe, after all…) to transport the VVIPs to and from their private jets at the outlying airports.

  2. No mention of current debate amongst Dutch political parties to make pax transferring between flights pay an air travel tax from 2026 ?

    1. Exactly, even the current high speed rail routes provide a lot of flexibility to cut short-haul flights. KLM has flights to Brussels despite high speed trains stopping right under Amsterdam’s terminal! Paris is just 3:00 away too and there is even a direct CDG-AMS train. Dusseldorf is 2:30 away with a change of trains. And as ridership builds on the London-Amsterdam trains, I imagine the flight demand will drop too, London-Paris trains halved the demand for flights.

    2. I do not see much potential to move a significant amount of short haul flights to high speed rail in Europe. There are multiple reasons for this: one aspect is capacity within the rail network. For France and Spain the situation is positive, but as soon as you look into the situation in the Netherlands and especially Germany you will see that these rail network oparate at capacity. Especially in Germany train cancellations, delays and massive overcrowding are a massive issue at the moment.

      An additional limiting factor for high speed trains are the regulatory aspects. While for aviation we have the single European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) the same cannot be said for rail. This means that a high-speed rail line crossing multiple countries needs to align to each national regulation, track & technical train norms (especially width of trains), language of the operators etc. This is complex and makes the introduction of cross border high speed lines expensive… There are some examples such as Thalys, international ICE lines or TGV Lyria, but these are limited. Just look at the regulatory framework behind Eurostar…

      Furthermore, volume is an issue. For a high-speed rail line to be sustainable you need a lot of passengers – this is a valid approach between Paris Lyon, Paris London or Madrid Barcelona. But just look at the high-speed rail lines in Spain – a lot of lines had been operating at a loss there and only with massive competition between different rail providers passenger numbers have finally gone up.

      And last but not least connecting traffic – as long as there is no holistic cooperation between airlines and rail providers to handle check-in, checked baggage and delays / IROP handling, a connecting short haul flight will remain a valid option even in case high-speed rail is available.

  3. What is the ‘formula’ for the restrictions? From the US, Delta would be the most vulnerable due to their impressive array of flights.

      1. JetBlue isn’t happy, to name one. US DoT had some harsh words for the Dutch government. In the end it may cost KLM slots in the U.S. as per Open Skies treaty. To quote the Dutch minister of Transport: “Then so be it…”

  4. Kilroy is correct that these moves are particularly surprising given that the Dutch built their economy based on trading. But it goes to show the full-scale assault that environmentalism is willing to have on the existing standard of living rather than just push new technologies and limit the growth of fossil fuels, even if other large countries are not doing “their part.” The Dutch also limited the use of fertilizers which created much larger backlash from farmers than these AMS cuts will produce. Let’s also not pretend that every other developed country esp. in Europe is watching AMS’s cuts and will impose their own unless there is huge backlash. It’s not even clear how deep the cuts will be to commercial aviation. By the time cuts to business aviation are factored in and considering that AMS did not fully utilize all of its slots for passenger service post-pandemic, this may be more of a no-growth strategy vs. one of cuts.

    Let’s also be careful not to throw stones at the Dutch without looking at the U.S. which has imposed far deeper cuts in the percentages of flights esp. in New Amsterdam, AKA New York City, under the guise of ATC staffing. Only when airlines are able to return to full pre-covid slot levels in NYC – and that may never happen since part of the issue at EWR is ground and runway capacity – can we throw stones at the Dutch. Most European large hubs have worse delays than US large hubs outside of NYC so cutting flights could improve operations.

    As for what carriers are most impacted, the biggest impact COULD BE KLM but only because they will be forced to start offering more connections via the train where those make sense. The Air France/KLM Group has already said that it will shift connecting capacity to Paris if necessary but even the French are taking some of their own measures to cut short haul flights and the French method might make more sense. It is doubtful that longhaul flights including those by Delta will be as impacted. The greatest impact could be to JetBlue which does not have permanent slots at AMS and started service w/ temporary slots. A no-growth of slot reduction strategy makes it much harder for them or anyone to grow.

    Regarding nighttime operations, I have landed at AMS before 6 am just as I have circled the UK waiting to land at LHR because of favorable flight times from the US. I have also watched QF land before the curfew since they usually cannot hold after such a long flight. Forcing aircraft to circle for environmental reasons makes no sense. The real measure of how effective the ban on nighttime operations is how it is executed. Consistently arriving earlier should force airlines to reschedule or lose the slot while bans on nighttime departures makes sense from a noise but not necessarily an emissions standpoint. Mandating certain percentages of new generation aircraft make the most environmental sense but generally are not permitted under international treaties.

    1. > But it goes to show the full-scale assault that environmentalism is willing to have
      > on the existing standard of living rather than just push new technologies and
      > limit the growth of fossil fuels, even if other large countries are not doing “their part.”

      The Dutch have and will continue to have a fairly high standard of living.

      Encouraging the airlines to reduce regional and short-haul flying where high speed rail can offer an often better experience is a great way to focus air travel and its emissions on routes where there are no viable alternatives.

      I don’t know what “other large countries” you are thinking of (The Netherlands certainly isn’t a large country), but it’s good to see someone step up steps without demanding that everyone else take the same step at the same time. That mindset is what will ultimately likely cost us dearly.

      But hey, as long as Delta can fly all they want, all is good, right?

    2. If you haven’t noticed we are way past the point where limiting the growth of fossil fuels will do much.

      We should have learned by now that waiting for others to do their part means nothing gets done. This idea comes from the sence ofnfairness developed on preschool playgrounds. Thankfully the Dutch are a little more mature than that.

      1. your reply is contradictory.
        If you believe that we are past the point where limiting the growth of fossil fuels will do much, then what is more mature about cutting off your own nose when others will still have theirs if it doesn’t help anything?

        and the Dutchman below is probably right and I suspected as much. This is as much about reducing noise and improving QOL and not really about reducing emissions.

        I have no problem in living more responsibly and asking companies and the government to do the same if it improves quality of life – but I don’t support those concepts that require others to make a greater sacrifice or significantly cut QOL in the name of “improvement” in order to help another group.

        and the whole point of the situation at AMS right now is nobody knows where it will end up so KLM can’t plan long-term. You can’t spend tens of billions of dollars on new aircraft if you aren’t sure if your hub will be viable in even 5 years.

        While not mentioned in the article, it is noteworthy how much “gray” is in the press release announcing AF/KLM’s massive Airbus widebody order (or LOI) w/ a lot of wiggle room in noting that orders will be deployed to Air France if necessary.

        I suspect the Dutch won’t look kindly if a large portion of the new widebody order ends up operating to/from France, KLM ends up w/ the older aircraft, and Delta starts dramatically increasing the amount of non-stop flights it operates from the US directly to more cities in Europe – bypassing both AMS and CDG.

        And AF/KLM is supposedly talking with both TAP Air Portugal and SAS about investments and likely switching alliances.

        Others do have ways of “doing their own part” when it becomes necessary. Portugal and Denmark aren’t going to risk losing air service but KLM might say their model doesn’t work below a certain number of flights.

        Being adult is facing reality including finances and taking measures when the deck becomes stacked against you. The French might end up being the “most adult.”

        1. If we all are unwilling to endure a minor inconvenience because someone else doesn’t have to we are doomed.

          There is nothing contradictory in what I said. Reducing the growth of fossil fuels isn’t a solution. Reducing the use of fossil fuels is.

          1. Reducing the use of fossil fuels only works if it is a coordinated action. Limiting or, in this case, reducing the number of flight movements will not make an enormous difference in fossil fuel use. Even during the summer of 2022 with restrictions on passengers due to lack of airport security staff, more international flights were added to regional airports close to The Netherlands, such as Munster Osnabruck Airport (FMO). This was even marketed online and in print. Competing Hubs such as DUS, BRU, FRA and CDG will be able to add flights as well.

            Last week the candidate Commissioner of the EU for Climate Action proposed a levy on kerosine. This will incentivise carriers, especially on the medium haul ranges such as Middle Eastern carriers, to tanker fuel outside the EU.

            The most effective method would be to restrict capacity on a regional level, like the EU, with a limit on flight movements. Subsequently member states can discriminate based on technology, meaning that they can exempt ‘eFlight movements’, i.e. flights on electricity, hydrogen or with a minimum mix of 50% for SAF. Implementing measures unilaterally, like The Netherlands is doing right now, is useless from a sustainability point of view and only window dressing.

      1. People say things like this, but it confuses me. The B6 flights are just as “relevent” as equivalent KLM or DL flights.

  5. Guessing that we will see a lot of AF/KL routes switched over to CDG. Thinking things like AUS-AMS at 4x weekly could easily be served via CDG on the same schedule.

  6. Politicians do not understand the airline business. They want to stop short haul flights. At one point, KLM served 17 U.K. airports, far more than BA. So, hundreds of Brits were heading to Amsterdam every day for..ummm..a coffee? No, they were connecting onward all over the world on KLM. Take away the short hauls and you make life very difficult for all those who do not live at a hub but want to fly somewhere. How dare they! I can’t see why that would be considered progress.

    1. Why do you assume that the politicians don’t understand this will hurt KLM? What you describe as an unintended consequence is.actually the goal; moving shirt haul flying to greener transportation options.

  7. Dutchman here (although left the lowlands in 1992 I still visit and have family and friends of course). This is a “no win” situation. AMS wants to continue to grow but that means more and more flights crossing over a very densely populated western part of the country. And to be honest, I believe the noise pollution lobby is a stronger one than the environmental lobby.

    The Dutch are indeed known for trade, and an outside economy and position relative to its population and country size. There is no doubt that flights make noise and pollute, and more flights make more noise and pollute more. Replacing older aircraft for newer will not create a net positive trend line but rather a less negative trend line.

    The answers have been mentioned here: better rail connections, newer quieter and cleaner aircraft, replacing smaller aircraft for larger ones thus reducing the number of flights, etc. But ultimately, this is a choice of economy vs environment (both in noise and pollution). And as we are also known for being the country of compromise, we will cut some flights, ban the Antonov and TriStar ( ;-) ) and pressure for technical improvements.

    BTW, CDG flights for short haul are being banned by the French authorities. Luckily they have an excellent high speed rail network at their disposal so some of those domestic flights are easily replaced.

  8. High speed rail is the way to go. Also, with the expected number of Delta flyers dropping KLM will most likely cut back on flights from the US.

  9. Rotterdam Airport is a less convenient airport from the city center of Amsterdam, but not horribly far (just over and hour). As an exchange student living in Amsterdam, we would often trek to RTM for cheaper flights (this was even before the high speed line was built). For places in Amsterdam and to the North, yes Schiphol is more convenient (and well connected). But for the southern half of the Dutch population conurbation, (Leiden, the Hague, Rotterdam, even Utrecht) it is about equidistant.

  10. The United States is the United States. The Netherlands is the Netherlands. The Netherlands has no business telling the United States what it can do. And the United States has no business telling the Netherlands what to do. And citizens of either country have no business telling either government what to do. Both are sovereign nations governed by their own constitutions and laws. That doesn’t mean we can’t make observations, but sometimes observations can sound or read a bit like telling others what to do.

  11. I flew into AMS for the first time this year and landed on Polderbaan and was wondering where on earth did we land? It was a long taxi to the terminal.

    I think trying to push people from short haul flights to take high speed rail instead is a good thing overall. Plus, riding the train is a lot more comfortable than being on a plane.

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