Do what we’re good at | Opinion

Two cheers for the climate activist circles. In 2023, Schiphol will shrink and the air tax for Dutch passengers will be increased. This is not without upsetting reactions. Deservedly.

“It seems very likely that the cabinet is deliberately trying to kill aviation and thus make the Netherlands the ugly duckling of Europe. They are playing with fire’, said Marnix Fruitema, chairman of Barin, the airline industry association at Schiphol, last summer.

The ugly Duckling? The best boy in the European class! The airports in our neighboring countries will do better and better business, so the decisions the government makes will not actually lead to less CO2 emissions. What it achieves is the destruction of our international infrastructure, which is the very foundation of trade, transport and logistics. It is inevitable that our economy will suffer serious shocks as a result. It is truly playing with fire.

KLM once understood the art of turning an ugly duckling into a beautiful white swan. Although the oldest airline in the world no longer uses the white swan as an advertising character. Nevertheless, this airline, which has topped the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for more than a decade, should enjoy protection as well as the white swan.

Economic policy

Few will have missed the chaos last summer at Schiphol. It is also no secret that the largest airport in the Netherlands was no exception. The same problems arose far beyond our country’s borders. What is extraordinary is that this misery is still going on here as a result of thrifty policies by CEO Dick Benschop. He is working hard to make Schiphol the ugly duckling of Europe.

The man also managed to attract low-cost airlines that often don’t add much to our international infrastructure. The sole purpose of these airlines is the mass sale of tickets at cheap prices. You can of course think of low-cost airlines, but don’t forget a number of companies from the Middle East, where employee rights sometimes do not or hardly matter. You don’t hear them talk about that in Brussels. Ryanair leads the airline industry in terms of poor pay and working conditions. Qatar Airways, which again won the most prestigious title of ‘Airline of the Year’ at the AirlineRatings Awards, recently made headlines because its pilots raised the alarm about long hours that often cause them to fall asleep on the job.

Day with the hand

The decline at Schiphol is accompanied by a rate increase of 37 percent for airlines using the airport. For KLM, which has its home port there, this means a huge loss. Other airlines only operate a few flights in their network from or to Schiphol, KLM all! The enthusiasm to take the plane really won’t change. The expectation that the outbreak of the corona pandemic would lead to a permanent change in mentality did not materialize after all. And lots of people boarded the plane last summer. People are only too happy to give themselves moral reasons why they are allowed to do something. Thanks to these measures, wanderlust is simply shifting to our eastern and southern neighbours. KLM, Transavia, Schiphol, wave goodbye. The CO2 and nitrogen problem moves just a few kilometers. Mother Earth will therefore be of no use and depending on the wind direction, the two gases will once again spread over the Netherlands.

With the choices the government is making regarding aviation, it is lending its ears to a handful of complainers. 61 to be precise, according to data from the Resident Contact Point Schiphol (BAS). A few years ago, in connection with an article I wanted to write about the planes over the Amsterdam district of IJburg, I approached a complainant who had hundreds of aircraft noise complaints to his name. When he saw on schiphol.dutchplanespotters.nl that a noise box was on its way, he quickly started calling. Had the machine in question been delayed, the man would have filed more complaints anyway. He said he was now ashamed of it and didn’t want to be associated with it anymore. In any case, this kind of terrorist report pollutes the view of Schiphol’s actual impact on the environment. For the sake of our international infrastructure, finances, employees and travelers, it is important not to give the complainants the last word.

© Maurits Vink

More than thirty decibels quieter

When the Boeing 747-400 entered the market, the type was classified as a silent aircraft compared to its predecessors. Now it is the biggest complaint trigger. Only the cargo variant flies in the Netherlands. It was recently decided in Israel that four-engine machines will no longer be welcome from 2023. This is not only notable because certain goods cannot be transported in the remaining types due to their size. However, figures on the number of measured decibels per aircraft type also show that various twin-engined aircraft are hardly inferior to their four-engined counterparts. They are mainly aircraft of the latest generation, which are noticeably quieter. You could say that aircraft engines have become more than thirty decibels quieter since the 1950s. Only people fly a lot more now.

Perspective

The CO2 and nitrogen problem certainly cannot be denied. But it requires at least a European approach. And consistent policy instead of the vacillating attitude shown by the Netherlands regarding, among other things, aviation. It should certainly not be neglected that the aircraft manufacturing industry is fully committed to climate-neutral aviation, including through weight savings, changes in wing design and flight on liquid green hydrogen. It is expected that the very first passenger aircraft flying on this could be deployed in 2028. That gives perspective. For the climate and the environment as well as for our international infrastructure. The Netherlands is increasingly adopting a policy of ‘Get rid of us!’ introducing all kinds of cuts and driving companies away. Keep what we’re good at. So that the Netherlands does not become a developing country.

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