BRUSSELS -- The Dutch government said Friday it will cut the maximum number of flights allowed each year at the country's busiest aviation hub, Schiphol Airport, in an attempt to reduce noise and air pollution.
The decision — expected to take effect late next year — to cut the number of flights allowed from around 500,000 to 440,000 is a further blow to the airport. Schiphol has seen chaos in recent weeks amid security staff shortages, with hours-long lines of passengers waiting to board flights.
The airport last week announced it will have to reduce the number of passengers it can handle each day by around 13,500 over the busy summer period because of the staff shortages.
Schiphol, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, has been growing for years and has become a busy European hub and a significant driver of economic growth in the Netherlands, although it has seen business hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the government, which also is looking for ways to cut emissions of carbon and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, said that the growth must now be reined in.
“I want to offer certainty and perspective to both the aviation sector and local residents," Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Harbers said. “This decision forms the basis for a new equilibrium. Unfortunately, it contains a difficult message for the aviation sector, which is still fully recovering from the drastic consequences of the corona pandemic.”
Schiphol said in a written reaction that it supports a “well-thought-out approach” that leads to the airport's stated goal of “connecting the Netherlands with the world as an increasingly quieter and cleaner Schiphol.”
But it said the plans announced Friday “lead to great uncertainty and much remains unclear. We see that major risks are being taken with regard to the quality of the network.”
Reacting Thursday to leaked news of the planned cuts, environmental group Greenpeace hailed the decision as a historic turning point.
“It is good that the Cabinet realizes that Schiphol has, for years, been flying beyond all boundaries when it comes to noise, nitrogen, ultrafine particles and the climate,” Greenpeace aviation expert Dewi Zloch said in a statement.
“This is an impetus for Schiphol to finally come up with a plan that takes into account the Paris Climate Agreement," Zloch added.