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Schiphol Airport has set about cutting 60,000 flight slots, a move slated by Air France-KLM as far less effective than investing in sustainable aviation fuel to address air pollution. But that still leaves noise pollution very much up in the air.

The head of Air France-KLM hit out on Thursday at a Dutch decision to cut airline slots at Amsterdam’s Schiphol to reduce air and noise pollution, saying it disrupted planning for the arrival of efficient new jets better able to curb emissions.

The Dutch government said last June flights from Schiphol would be limited to 440,000 a year, 11 percent less than in 2019, to cut noise pollution — down from 500,000.

CEO Ben Smith said the Franco-Dutch airline group had invested heavily in newer planes based on foreseeable capacity at KLM’s hub only to see the goal posts move abruptly.

“You know we have a whole network, a whole fleet plan which is 25 years based on these slots,” he told reporters at a company event in Paris.

“That’s quite a big hit (they) have given us there,” he said, adding that government efforts to curb emissions would be better directed at helping to scale up production of sustainable aviation fuel.

The aviation industry says putting SAF in the newest available jets, which burn up to a quarter less fuel, is the most effective way of curbing emissions in the short term.

Environmental groups say that is still not enough and the only way to combat climate change is to fly less.

The government has pointed to the airport’s impact on “nature and climate” for the cuts, following criticism from environmental campaigners and the left-wing opposition for its greenhouse gas and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The 11 percent reduction from November 2023 follows a move by Schiphol, in which the Dutch state is majority shareholder, to cap the number of passengers it could carry last summer due to staff shortages, which caused a row with airlines.

Smith said that the airline group had ramped up hiring to avoid the travel chaos that marred last summer.

“I’m quite confident that by this summer we will be able to put into place all the capacity that we had originally planned,” Smith said in a speech at the event.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Tim Hepher in Paris Editing by Matthew Lewis

Copyright (2023) Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions

This article was written by Tim Hepher and Joanna Plucinska from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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Tags: air france-klm, airlines, aviation, climate change, schiphol, sustainable aviation fuel, sustainable tourism

Photo credit: A sign at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. Cjh1452000 / Wikimedia Commons

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