Capacity at Dutch airports is running out

This month the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is expected to present an action agenda to maintain Schiphol Airport’s position as one of Europe’s main hub airports with a strong network of connections. We are looking forward to this Mainport Schiphol policy paper. Obviously, it will emphasize the importance of Schiphol for the Netherlands and will address the necessity to have a level playing field with the Turkey and the Gulf. Maintaining Schiphol’s position implies significant growth of the number of flights and passengers. Actions to facilitate this growth shall be taken. The expected number of flights exceed today’s capacity by far and capacity available at the Dutch airports is running out fast.

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Capacity Challenge

Schiphol is limited to 500,000 movements annually until 2020. The past few years the number of flights picked up rapidly and it could approach the 2020 limit in the coming years. Additional space can be found at the Lelystad and Eindhoven airports, although Lelystad needs further development first and at Eindhoven there currently is no support in the area for further growth. It is going to be a tight squeeze to facilitate the growth and ambitions up to 2020.

After 2020 the number of flights at Schiphol may grow under the condition that Schiphol’s environmental footprint is reduced. However, it is not yet apparent how the environmental footprint can be reduced. Our infographic on environment gives a few possible solutions though.

Increase capacity by reducing environmental footprint

Of course quieter aircraft will help reduce the airports noise footprint. But it is doubtful this alone will be enough. The fleet gradually becomes more quiet, but most aircraft operating at Schiphol today will operate in 2020. The route structure has already been optimized for noise abatement in the past decade. Little can be gained in this area, it’s like a waterbed; when you push on one side you pay for it on another side.

A lot is expected of continuous descent approaches and continuous climbs both in combination with fixed tracks. The lack of predictability and segmentation of airspace are two of the main factors inhibiting implementation of these concepts in a high-density and small airspace such as Schiphol’s. Also reducing the use of so called ‘secondary’ runways, that cause more nuisance than the preferred runways, by increasing runway capacity and increasing resilience of runway use and capacity to weather will help. In our infographic on capacity we show some concepts to accomplish this.

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