The European Commission is asking airlines and other stakeholders to comment on proposed rules suggested by the Dutch government for the distribution of flights between Amsterdam Schiphol and Lelystad airports. Lelystad is currently the country’s busiest general aviation airport but is preparing to accommodate “large” commercial traffic starting in 2020 to free up capacity at Schiphol. The Dutch government formally informed Brussels of its draft decree establishing the traffic distribution rule (TDR) last month and asked the EU executive to approve the proposal.
The measure, if adopted and implemented, would relocate air traffic that is not linked to major airport hub connections—point-to-point leisure traffic—from Schiphol to Lelystad airport, both owned by Schiphol Group. The slots made available at Schiphol must be used exclusively for transfer flights, which the draft decree defines as flights to destinations that at Schiphol have an average transfer rate of at least 10 percent. Point-to-point flights are flights to destinations that at Schiphol have an average transfer rate of less than 10 percent over the past five years.
Airlines will not be forced to move from Schiphol to Lelystad, and the airport, located some 50 kilometers from Amsterdam, will accommodate only point-to-point passenger flights that relocate from Schiphol. No widebody aircraft operations, cargo flights, or night flights will be allowed at the airport, which has a runway of 2,700 meters (8,858 feet) long and 45 meters wide. Airlines that vacate peak time slots at Schiphol will receive priority, although it is unclear how many low-cost carriers or charter airlines are lined up to move to the regional airport. “The TDR establishes the legal framework, but it is up to the market to implement this through an incentive policy,” the Dutch government said its notification to the Commission.
On its side, the Dutch government is looking into the possibility of introducing secondary slot trading, which it said could “support the implementation of the traffic distribution rule, because airlines that move from Schiphol to Lelystad airport receive financial compensation for the slots that they no longer need at Schiphol. This can make it more attractive for airlines to take the voluntary step to Lelystad airport.”
The ministry of infrastructure and the environment said it will, in consultation with the European Commission, further map out the possibilities of secondary slot trading at Schiphol and decide on its “desirability at a later stage.” It also could consider carrying out a limited experiment after consultation with Brussels. The Dutch government said it “is important to note that there is still no clear European framework for secondary slot trading” and would be happy to work with the Commission to come up with a framework.
The Dutch government believes it is justified in introducing the TDR to address Schiphol’s growth limits based on environmental preconditions. Movements at the airport are capped at 500,000 by the end of 2020 under an agreement with the local community and with 497,000 air transport movements in 2017 Schiphol is nearing the limit. The Dutch government sees Schiphol’s “mainport” function with its continental and intercontinental route network spanning 326 destinations as a public interest, hence its decision to develop Leystad as a twin gateway and “overflow airport” for Schiphol.
The European Commission in 1995 endorsed a French decree designed to distribute traffic between the Paris airports of Orly and Charles de Gaulle with the aim of controlling the number of movements at Orly. Aeroports de Paris, which owns Orly and CDG, has an 8 percent stake in Schiphol Group.
Lelystad’s upgrade from general aviation airport to an airport handling a large number of leisure flights is controversial, however, and the change has been delayed several times mainly on environmental grounds. Its maximum capacity is set at 45,000 aircraft movements per year. It will accommodate up to 4,000 landings and take-offs in its first year of operations as a commercial airport, and this will grow to maximum of 7,000 movements in 2021 and 10,000 in 2022.
The European consultation on the TDR for Schiphol and Lelystad closes September 7.