To mainport or not to mainport ?

In 2008, together with the aviation sector, the government and local residents, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol established three objectives for the further development of the Dutch aviation sector: noise mitigation, quality of life improvement and Mainport development. Being more selective when it comes to the destinations from Schiphol is one of the means to achieve those objectives. Last week, Schiphol visited the Dutch House of Representatives to talk about this so-called selectivity policy.

What is Mainport development?

A Mainport is a hub that connects important transport routes, for example by air. The term is primarily a Dutch policy term and is used by parties including Schiphol. A hub facilitates and attracts business, and with it jobs. An extensive network of destinations is the core of our strong airport. This ensures that the Netherlands despite being a relatively small country is optimally connected to the rest of the world.

The network of destinations is the issue

Schiphol has a combination of an outstanding hub network belonging to KLM and its partners (from A to B via a transfer) and non-hub traffic (from A to B) involving other airlines. At the time of the 2008 agreements, a maximum of 500,000 air transport movements was set. Because of the accompanying potential scarcity, the choice was made to allow Mainport-related air traffic with the most economic value to use our airport. We offer Eindhoven Airport and Lelystad Airport as alternatives for non-Mainport-related traffic.

How do you determine whether a destination is Mainport-related?

First and foremost, value is subjective, of course. Someone who frequently visits family abroad attaches completely different value to a flight than a business traveller. To determine whether a destination is Mainport-related, the following two criteria were designated in cooperation with the sector. The destination qualifies as hub traffic and/or it has more than 10,000 outbound business passengers on an annual basis. The flights are divided into five segments.

Definition of traffic segments

Mainport-related (reinforce at Schiphol)

1 Hub operation (passenger and cargo), operated by SkyTeam and KLM codeshare partners

2 Non-hub traffic to intercontinental destinations with more than 10,000 outbound business passengers travelling to the destination annually

3 Non-hub traffic to European destinations with more than 10,000 outbound business passengers travelling to the destination annually

4 Non-hub full-freighter traffic

Non-Mainport-related (offer alternatives at regional airports)

5 Non-hub traffic to ICA or European destinations with fewer than 10,000 business passengers travelling annually

Source: Alders agreement 2008; confirmed by the Central Government (2012)

Where we are now?

Though all parties have now signed the selectivity agreements, there seem to be differing interpretations in practice. What is made very clear by European legislation, however, is that Schiphol cannot simply shut out certain airlines. If we want certain holiday destinations to disappear from Schiphol, then we have to offer an alternative. That alternative is Lelystad Airport.

Has Schiphol accomplished anything at all?

A combination of over one hundred airlines is active at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, each with its own business procedures and its own range of travel destinations. According to an international study, Schiphol has the best direct connectivity in Europe and the second best hub connectivity in the world. That is certainly something to be proud of.

Almost ten years after the selectivity agreements have been concluded, the network of destinations has grown from 262 to 322; Mainport-related traffic has grown to 93% and non-Mainport-related traffic dropped down to 7%. Sometimes, you will hear 21% in relation to the latter, but that is actually the percentage of low-cost carriers at Schiphol, and those airlines fly to Mainport-related destinations as well.

Finally, the noisiest aircraft have virtually disappeared from Schiphol, which is another one of the selectivity measures.

What is next?

Travellers often choose Amsterdam Airport Schiphol because of the experience, high quality and vast network of destinations. If they are satisfied with, they return for their next flight. Of course, Schiphol wants to continue to offer this in the future. An attractive international airport with a large network of destinations will benefit the Netherlands as a whole. That is why it is important that we come together and make a new set of agreements for the future of Dutch aviation.