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Dutch carriers’ future on some transatlantic routes could be in doubt after powerful lobbying group, Airlines for America, this week launched an official complaint with the US Department of Transport, labelling the slot reduction at Schiphol “unlawful on multiple grounds”. 

The Netherlands government had announced plans to limit flight movements from Schiphol Airport to a maximum of 440,000 a year in a bid to reduce noise pollution.  

Now, an official complaint from Airlines for America against the government of the Netherlands and the European Union, under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act (IATFCPA), could mean the country has to re-think plans to limit flight capacity at Schiphol or risk its carriers losing access to the US. 

The complaint claims “the Netherlands continues to violate EU regulations and the US-EU Open Skies agreement by unlawfully mandating capacity reductions at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol”.  

“In addition, it is both an unjustifiable and unreasonable discriminatory and anticompetitive practice, and an unjustifiable and unreasonable restriction on air carrier access under IATFCPA and a violation of the US-EU Open Skies Air Transport Agreement.” 

Air Cargo Netherlands had previously warned the government that US carriers incorporate the Netherlands as an integral partner in their international networks and that the restrictions could impede those rights, adding that “adoption of such measures could violate the obligations of the Netherlands”.  

And it seems A4A agrees, and has urged the US DoT to “engage expeditiously in consultations with the Dutch government and the EC”. 

The flight limit has been criticised by those in the Dutch aviation industry for its economic drawbacks, with minister of infrastructure and water management Mark Harbers claiming the decision brings “difficult news for the aviation sector, which is still recovering from the huge impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”, but adding that “this decision serves as a foundation for establishing a new balance”. 

Until the next government decides on the issue, after elections on 24 November, Schiphol will be allowed a maximum of 500,000 slots a year. After this date, a new agreement will be formed, but it is expected to take several months.  

“We want such a new system as soon as possible, but no later than 2025/2026,” the airport said. “We call on the government to develop a legally binding system where the goal is no longer the number of flight movements but less noise and emissions, in line with the Paris Climate Accords.” 

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, said the decision was “a disappointing outcome for travellers, shippers, the Dutch economy and airlines”. 

The Loadstar contacted both KLM and Mr Harbers’ office for comment, but had not received any response before publication. 

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