As the international aviation industry is mainly looking how to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the forced travel bans that followed, aviation in The Netherlands has an extra challenge. It is waiting on key political decisions about growth and expansion, that have been postponed. Our advice: be active, be as innovative as possible.
Of course, much of the aviation industry’s attention is directed to survive the current crisis in air travel. Besides major cuts in flight schedules and staff, some 30 airlines fully collapsed in 2020. Long-haul carriers are expediting the retirement of their Airbus A340, A380 and Boeing 747 fleet. And manufacturers have scaled down operations due to lower demands of new aircraft. But it is not just airlines. ACI Europe reported in October of 2020 that 193 (mainly regional) airports out of a 740 were on the brink of insolvency, risking some 277,000 jobs in the EU. The latest data from ACI Europe shows that the industry still has a long way to go, with 82 percent fewer flights in Q1 of 2021, compared to Q1 in 2019.
Legislation on hold
Meanwhile in The Netherlands, there is an additional challenge when it comes to the growth of the aviation industry. New legislation aimed to regulate growth in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been postponed, due to governmental elections. Until a new coalition is formed, there will be no major decision on growth for airports. So far, the most impact of postponing the new legislation, known as the Luchtvaartnota, falls on Schiphol Airport and the opening of Lelystad Airport for commercial aviation. Lelystad Airport hinges on the overflow of Schiphol Airport. With much less flights at the moment and not knowing what the new coalition will look like, it is unclear when or even if Lelystad Airport will open. Other regional airports are not as much affected by the postponing of the Luchtvaartnota. Most of these airports are in the process of getting new operational licences. To get these licences, they started participation projects to define a widely supported and sustainable future scenario.
Getting back of going green?
It is hard for airports to invest in innovation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and noise reduction when they are in survival mode and waiting on growth terms. But innovation will be needed, once the industry is back at its old levels. There is no doubt that reducing the effects of climate change will be a major factor in getting room to grow in the number of flight movements at regional airports. Fortunately, we already see some major innovations at the Dutch airports. At Rotterdam The Hague Airport, the Airport Technology Lab – a project that aims to create an open airport infrastructure where new ideas, tools and concepts can be tested and developed – has seen new innovations come to life. Groningen Airport Eelde is a testing ground for electric flying, as a hub for Power Up (a collaboration to test the feasibility of electric flights). And Schiphol Airport is working hard on electrifying its operational vehicles and testing with new tax-procedures like towing.
Keep ahead of the curve
As hard it may seem at the moment, we feel that regional airports have no choice but to stay on track when it comes to innovation and making the airport greener. Whether or not we will fully return to a pre-pandemic state of air travel, sustainability will become an even bigger part of airport operations. By looking at it now, you can stay ahead of the curve and make it one of your selling points. Both to travellers, as well as governments.
Let us know if you have thoughts about this, or if you want advice on how to make the best use of the current situation we all face.
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