‘Huge environmental benefits’ Schiphol plucked out of the air

Schiphol has grown much faster in recent years than was agreed. At the same time, the promised disturbance reduction has lacked behind. So there is no room at all for additional growth.

At he presentation of the final annual figures 2016 Schiphol has issued the claim that there is huge room for extra growth opportunities after 2020. The argument is that the airport has reached spectacular results in the field of disturbance reduction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The calculation of 34% disturbance reduction is an example of creative accounting in which the alleged successes are exaggerated and the broken promises are covered up. The criticism of the residents delegation in the Environment Council Schiphol (ORS) on this absurd claim was reason for the independent Commission for the environmental impact assessment (MER) to ensure that the calculations must be redone. The preliminary review advice by that same Commission calls even more claims into questions. So we are waiting for the real numbers, we are not interested in alternative facts.

Creative accounting

  • Schiphol claimed a noise reduction of 9% as a result of the new start procedure NADP2. With the obligation to use the new European calculation model DOC29 virtually nothing will remain.
  • Schiphol claims noise reduction by flying CDA’s (Continuous Descent Approach). But we need to investigate first the differences in sound profile between glide landings with fixed approach route, and landing with vectoring. After that we can determine whether, and if so, how much quieter they genuinely are. Separately, current CDA’s contribute nothing to the nuisance reduction since 2008 because they have already been flown before the Alders Agreement. In this agreement of 2008 is unanimously (aviation sector, government, local municipalities and residents) agreed that Schiphol must earn volume growth with disturbance reduction.
    Given the continued growth of aviation is doubtful whether ever more CDA’s can be flown at Schiphol. This is already evident from the negligible proceeds from the advanced and extending night procedures that they tried.
  • Extending CDA’s was primarily intended for noise reduction. As it turned out CDA’s were not feasible in 2012. Renegotiation lead to a reduction in the number of night flights from 32,000 to 29,000 at the end of 2015. But the final annual figures of 2016 reveal an exceeding number of night flights: the number went up to 33,000!
  • The growth of Schiphol has gone up tremendously in the past year: growth space of four years got gobbled up in one year and is especially spend on leisure flights. That means that there is totally no disturbance reduction as promised in 2008.
    In various interviews CEO Nijhuis of Schiphol let know that he was overtaken by the growth rates. That is strange for an entrepreneur who has provoked this accelerated growth himself by reducing tariffs and giving subsidies. Whether that way of doing business is smart is debatable. In any case, Schiphol thereby made less profit. Worse is that the room for growth for network traffic in the coming years has been wasted.
  • The principle ‘development in balance with the environment’ has been violated. Agreed measures are not implemented (CDA’s, less night flights) or delayed (availability of the satellite Lelystad Airport), whereby there is no disturbance reduction. In addition, by neglecting selectivity more flights come to Schiphol than necessary, a quieter fleet does not yet exist and by handling an outdated housing stock (2005) more than half a million new inhabitants stay outside the count. They are disturbed by aircraft noise, but not counted as disturbed people. The disturbance in the area near Schiphol increases. The modest decrease by technological means falls away completely against the increase in the number of flights.


A major sticking point is implementation of the agreed selectivity policy. Both the aviation sector and the Ministry are defaulting on the necessary measures. The aviation sector itself would entice companies to use the satellite airports of Eindhoven and Lelystad. That Lelystad becomes available later than planned is a disgrace. The timely preparation of the traffic distribution rule (to commit to transfer if necessary) has been underestimated despite various warnings. To prevent that environmental policy is going to fail, the residents issued a wake-up call for the politicians. Through a Petition to the House in February 2017 Parliament is asked to secure the necessary legal framework. The cap should be maintained as an incentive to the agreed behaviour: no unrestrained, but gradual development.

Schiphol prides itself to be in the top 3 airports in Europe about the number of passengers. But will the match be played there? The agreement was gradual growth into 2020. Instead, scarce space has been wasted on fun flight, to the detriment of the more important mainport traffic. Schiphol is also in first place in the wrong ranking: it needed more flight for less passengers than the other two ‘competitors ‘ (LHR, FRA) and caused so more nuisance for its surroundings.

A deal is a deal!

As an argument for breaking the cap of 500,000 flight movements a year the fairy tale is spread that the Alders Agreement is out of date. That is not valid. The agreement of 2008 has been revised twice, in 2012 and also in 2015. Therefore, the residents keep committed to the agreements until the end of 2020. In order to resolve bottlenecks they have already made proposals for the period up to 2030.

For the third time in short time the aviation sector started a propaganda war. The Schiphol anniversary 2016, the 2017 new year’s speeches and  the national election campaign led to tinkering with the agreement. Actually, it’s curious that the aviation business openly advocates the dismantlement of the Alders Agreement. One can assume that the signature of entrepreneurs under a contract means: a deal is a deal. Politicians who come back on commitments, stating new insights are rightly blamed of lack of credibility . The residents keep the aviation sector so just stick to its word.

For now CEO Nijhuis proposes to focus the discussion on the period after 2020. That’s exactly what the residents delegation proposed in the Plan of action ‘Schiphol by 2030’. But extra growth after 2020 is just as out of place as the huge environmental benefits that Schiphol claims.