Air-France-KLM slams Schiphol flight limits but says ready for summer

Protest against environmental pollution from aviation at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, in Schiphol
Climate activists protest against environmental pollution from aviation at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, in Schiphol, Netherlands November 5, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

PARIS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The head of Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) 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% less than in 2019, to cut noise pollution - down from 500,000.

Chief Executive 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% 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

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Joanna reports on airlines and travel in Europe, including tourism trends, sustainability and policy. She was previously based in Warsaw, where she covered politics and general news. She wrote stories on everything from Chinese spies to migrants stranded in forests along the Belarusian border. In 2022, she spent six weeks covering the war in Ukraine, with a focus on the evacuation of children, war reparations and evidence that Russian commanders knew of sexual violence by their troops. Joanna graduated from the Columbia Journalism School in 2014. Before joining Reuters, she worked in Hong Kong for TIME and later in Brussels reporting on EU tech policy for POLITICO Europe.