Economic damages vs environmental benefits at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Many of us may have noticed differences in traffic noise and air pollution as well as job losses and bankruptcy in the aviation sector during the corona crisis. Although there are many environmental benefits to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol slowing down, will it countervail the upcoming wave of discharges?

Photos and text by Lieve Thuis

Empty KLM departure hall

Departure halls and check-in counters are empty, only a few employees are sitting behind information desks and only a handful of travellers is wandering through the entry halls of Schiphol.

Those few employees are a remainder of Schiphol’s working staff. Since June 1, 2020, Schiphol’s largest airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, opened the Voluntary Departure Scheme for all employees in anticipation of necessary next steps.

KLM states: “The impact of the coronavirus on aviation and KLM is enormous and the situation is constantly changing and deteriorating. With the latest developments in the US, we have entered a crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and KLM must take drastic measures to deal with this exceptional situation.”

Empty arrival halls
Empty airline information desks

Not only KLM, but all airlines are having trouble not going bankrupt. For example, Dutch Airline Ryanair has applied for collective lay-off at the Institute for Employee Insurance for all the companies’ employees established in the Netherlands.

Empty flight departure boards

One of the six departure information boards is filled, but almost all flights are cancelled. But while airlines and airports have been struggling to uphold their companies and maintain their employees’ contracts, Schiphol’s neighbours aren’t complaining.

The necessary measures to fight the coronavirus have a large impact on the environment. Amid the devastation, the lockdown has been credited with giving hope of how a low-carbon economy may be achieved.

Greenpeace taking action at a runway, Photo: ANP

Greenpeace activists have been protesting against the governments’ billions support to KLM. They occupied a Schiphol runway to protest coronavirus aid to the polluting aviation sector. They demand environmental requirements to be a part of the support.

According to newspaper The Independent, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London, Sir Michael Marmot, said: “What the COVID crisis exposes is that we can do things differently. We must not go back to the status quo, we cannot do that.”

The Dutch ministry wants to find solutions for both recent and upcoming environmental problems. They announced that there will be a limitation of the growth of Schiphol, renewed, cleaner airplanes, an abatement of noise pollution and a decreasing amount of night flights after COVID-19.

Hopefully there will be a compensation for both Schiphol’s employees and environment. This way the empty halls of Amsterdam’s airport will be filled again, people can return to their jobs and the skies will be as clear as they are in times of the pandemic because of cleaner airplanes and a limitation of the number of flights.