Five questions about the growth of Schiphol

These days, you regularly hear that Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is getting close to the agreed limit of 500,000 so-called 'air transport movements' But what does that mean exactly, and what role does Schiphol play in allocating new flights to airlines? We answer the five most frequently asked questions.

1. How much is Schiphol still allowed to grow?

In consultation with local residents, the Dutch aviation sector and government authorities, we have agreed a maximum of 500,000 flights per year to and from Schiphol, an agreement valid up to and including 2020. We are not far off the limit: in 2016, there were 479,000 air transport movements. For the period after 2020, we wish to reach new agreements in 2017 which will enable further growth in balance with its environs.

2. Did Schiphol anticipate this growth?

We experienced extremely rapid growth in 2015 and 2016. Over the past few years, airlines have come to realise that the limit of 500,000 air transport movements in 2020 would soon draw very close. As a result, they started to request more so-called 'slots' than we had previously estimated. In addition, there were good market conditions, a low oil price and a high fleet capacity among the airlines, which all helped to bring forward the growth anticipated for 2018 and 2019.

3. How can an airline fly to and from Schiphol?

In order to fly to and from Schiphol, an airline must have landing rights and available space at Schiphol, which is known as a slot. Slots are assigned by an independent slot coordinator on the basis of international agreements. Schiphol is obliged to facilitate every airline which has slots.

4. I read that Schiphol subsidises airlines to fly to and from Schiphol. How does that work?

A good network of connections is important for the Netherlands, not just for jobs and economic growth but also for social and cultural development. Just like other airports all over the world, Schiphol has an incentive programme which helps airlines by meeting part of the cost involved in starting flights to a new destination. Every airline, whether it is Dutch or foreign, can claim these incentives if they are opening a new destination and have landing rights and slots, and we are not allowed to distinguish between them. The airlines will then receive a contribution for each passenger for a maximum of two years, together with support for their marketing budget. The aim of this programme is to expand Schiphol's network to include new destinations, but it is not about attracting new airlines as such.

5. So Schiphol itself does not determine who flies to and from Schiphol?

A commonly heard misconception is that we, as the airport, get to decide which airlines are allowed to fly to Schiphol and which are not. There is a free market within the EU, so that within the EU any European airline is permitted to fly between two destinations. In the case of countries outside the EU, it is the government authorities – and not Schiphol – which negotiate landing rights.