Amsterdam Schiphol may lose 25% of its cargo flights and Maastricht, the second-largest hub for cargo flights in the Netherlands, could lose its freight altogether if the Dutch government presses ahead with plans to introduce a cargo tax, according to the online newsletter Cargo Forwarder.

A long-awaited research report has been published forecasting what the effects of a tax would be, but so far there has been no response to the results from the government.

The tax would be based on the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of departing freighters. Belly cargo would be exempted. This would make air cargo rates uncompetitive, rising by an average of 0.3% to 0.7% at Schiphol and 0.7% to 1.1% at Maastricht, forcing airport fees to increase by 38%-57% at Schiphol and 28%-46% at Maastricht, making both of them more expensive than Frankfurt Int'l and Paris CDG.

Brussels National and Luxembourg are already cheaper. Cologne/Bonn, Liège, and London Heathrow, meanwhile, would still be pricier but by a smaller margin.

The price hikes would eventually push airlines to move all or part of their operations to airports abroad, possibly leading to an erosion of the function of the hub, with forwarders shifting their distribution centres elsewhere.

Maastricht is more vulnerable to airlines exiting because, for cargo, it is focused on freighters only. It also has Liège, Brussels National, and Cologne/Bonn situated in the vicinity.

“To keep airlines, Maastricht has to distinguish itself by combining an outstanding service level with a competitive cost level. An aviation tax would make this impossible,” the researchers warned, an effect that would eventually wipe out any air cargo activity there.

Overall, the Dutch airports could lose up to 366,000 tonnes by 2030, and up to 6,500 jobs could be lost. Although carbon dioxide emissions at the airports would fall, the flights will have moved to other hubs so that global emissions would remain unchanged and road transport emissions may rise, the report said.

The Senate of the Netherlands is due to discuss the issue in the coming days.