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News that the Dutch government on Friday ordered Schiphol to cut flight numbers by 12% next year has led to fears other European airports may also face reductions.

The Dutch government ordered Schiphol to reduce the maximum number of flights at the airport from 500,000 to 440,000 – a more severe reduction than the airport anticipated.

The cuts will be in force for the next five years – but the government has not said what will happen after that, making planning impossible for the airport authority.

The reasons for the cut are primarily environmental, emissions and noise, and Schiphol is now working furiously to adapt its offer to airlines.

Anne-Marie van Hemert, its head of aviation business, told delegates at Tiaca’s regional conference in Amsterdam today it was working hard “to be able to maintain the quality of the network”.

She said: “We need to analyse what the impact will be, but we definitely have a challenge on our hands.”

But she added: “Cargo will remain important for us as an airport.”

However, Schiphol acknowledged that it would be difficult to keep cargo flight cuts to a minimum. Its 80:20, ‘use-it-or-lose-it’, slot rule is notoriously difficult for cargo, in particular for ad hoc or late-running flights, and cargo’s seasonality is another difficulty.

One Schiphol source said: “It will be very difficult for cargo. We have got to come up with a plan. At least we are working with KLM now to try to keep pressure on the government.”

Shipper Lars Droog, director of EMEA operations for Cytek Biosciences, said cutting flights was not necessarily the answer to environmental challenges. He said: “It means we move the problem to our neighbour countries. Is that the answer? I don’t think so. We need to find a solution to the problem, but it can’t be done overnight.

“It should be done globally, ideally. That’s something we have to acknowledge; that it shouldn’t be a focus on one airport.”

While the Dutch government is ahead of other European governments in restricting flights, other airports have expressed concerns.

“When it rains in the Netherlands, it starts spitting in Belgium,” said the Schiphol source. “I think Brussels and others will be worried.”

Brussels Airport told The Loadstar it was surprised by the cuts at Schiphol, but added it was too early to assess whether it would impact other airports.

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