Eight European airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have announced legal action against the Dutch government's unilateral decision to cap flights at Amsterdam Schiphol, declaring the move transgresses national, European and international legislation and is "unnecessary, damaging, and lacks proper substantiation", given the airline industry's progress in reducing carbon emissions and lowering noise levels.

In a joint statement, the KLM Group, - including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KLM cityhopper, Martinair (Netherlands), and Transavia Airlines - plus Delta Air Lines, Corendon Dutch Airlines, easyJet, and TUI fly (Netherlands), said: "The airlines maintain that the Dutch government's unilateral and sudden decision to reduce Schiphol's capacity from 500,000 to 460,000 annual flight movements (with the ultimate goal of reducing flight movements to 440,000 by 2024) is incomprehensible. The airlines have already made multi-billion euro investments to meet near- and long-term goals in line with their own decarbonisation trajectories as well as government policies, while the government's justification hinges on operational restrictions with no consideration of workable alternative solutions to effect noise reduction". In addition to negatively impacting the Dutch economy, the capacity reduction would significantly reduce travel options and connectivity for consumers, they added.

The KLM Group, which accounts for nearly 60% of traffic at Schiphol, initiated the legal action in line with parent company Air France-KLM's position on the matter.

While Schiphol struggled with operational challenges in June 2022, the government announced the cap but cited noise and pollution concerns.

In a separate statement, IATA Director-General Willie Walsh said the Dutch government refused to engage in meaningful consultations and set a dangerous precedent that left airlines no choice but to challenge them in court.

"IATA and the global airline community believe that this political decision by the Dutch government contravenes European Union Regulation 598/2014 on noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports. It also disregards the Chicago Convention, a binding international agreement to which the Netherlands is a signatory. Annex 16 of the Convention contains provisions for the balanced approach to aircraft noise management which states are obligated to follow when taking measures to manage the noise impact of aviation".

It said critical requirements of the EU regulation included consultation with affected parties, using flight reductions only as a last resort, and balancing the needs and concerns of residents, the environment and the local economy for aviation's economic and social benefits.

The decision to cut capacity at Schiphol failed to meet these requirements because no meaningful dialogue was had, flight reductions were imposed as a first resort, and pandemic-linked damage to the Dutch aviation industry was not being addressed. Pre-pandemic, aviation supported about 330,000 jobs and USD30 billion of economic activity in the country.

Apart from IATA, other industry associations that have thrown their weight behind the airlines include the Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN), Airlines for Europe (A4E), and the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

BARIN said the government was making Schiphol increasingly unattractive to airlines due to tripling ticket taxes, hundreds of millions of euros in noise charges, and cumulative increases of 37% over the next three years in airport charges.