Schiphol hides behind competitors
2 March 2008 - Next Wednesday, the court in
the Hague will hear a complaint by Schiphol Airport against the
new flight tax. Schiphol claims it will lose market share to other
European airports. Meanwhile, Heathrow and Frankfurt complain they
will lose passengers to Schiphol rather than the other way around,
if they do not get their way.
At present, the Netherlands does not levy any taxes on international
flights. As of 1 July, short distance passengers will have to pay
a €11.25 tax on a return ticket, whereas long distance passengers
will be charged €45.00. The UK and France already have similar
Even though the competitive transit flights are exempted, Schiphol
claims the tax will affect its competitiveness. “In 2008,
Schiphol will lose market share in terms of passengers and air traffic
to other large airports in Europe”, CEO Gerlach Cerfontaine
warned. He argues this is not just bad for the economy, but also
for the environment, “for it is obvious that many people will
go to airports abroad”.
One of the airports that expect to draw passengers from the Netherlands
is Brussels Airport. However, a spokesperson told Luchtvaartnieuws
that he does not think the flight tax will play a role in this:
“Travel costs [to the airport] will often exceed the tax”.
Nevertheless, Kales Airline Services and Ethiopian Airlines yesterday
started a pilot shuttle bus service from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and
Breda to Brussels. A return ticket costs thirty euro.
Meanwhile, foreign airports say they will lose passengers to Schiphol
rather than the other way around, unless they are allowed to expand.
Brussels itself is constructing a new terminal for low-cost carriers
for that reason; Frankfurt wants night flights and London Heathrow
wants a new runway.
In September last year, a broad coalition of business lobby groups
in Germany warned that thousands of jobs are at stake if no night
flights are allowed at Frankfurt Airport. “All the important
European airports outside Germany that Frankfurt has to compete
with (Amsterdam, Paris, London) guarantee the operation of the economically
indispensable night flights”, the lobbyists said.
Heathrow is said to need a new runway in order to compete with
Schiphol and Paris - Charles de Gaulle. “If Heathrow is allowed
to become uncompetitive, the flights and routes it operates will
simply move elsewhere”, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly told
the Observer, echoing the argument made by Schiphol’s Cerfontaine.
“All it will do is shift capacity over the Channel. It will
make us feel pure, but with no benefit to the rest of the planet”.
A spokesperson of employers’ organisation CBI agrees. “If
a managing director can’t fly to China via London, he might
go via Amsterdam for his connecting flight”. As a result,
global companies might decide to move their headquarters and research
facilities to Amsterdam. “If you’ve got UK-based managing
directors flying to Amsterdam every night, in the end the company
might think about basing everything there too”, he told the
Apparently, airports are hiding behind each other to avoid having
to comply with restrictions. “Of course they do”, says
Evert Hassink of Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth). “We
have been saying so for decades. Airports are creating the false
impression that they are suffering losses whereas in fact they are
highly profitable”. Milieudefensie is campaigning for a European
excise duty on aircraft fuel in addition to the flight tax.
(in Dutch), Frankfurt
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