We all still remember the Aviation Policy Memorandum 2020-2050 issued in the spring of 2020: it was nonspecific and we had to read between the lines to glean the contours of a new aviation policy. Furthermore, the Minister certainly had to exercise restraint due to the corona crisis having just broken out.
The Rutte IV coalition agreement is, if this is possible, even less specific than the Aviation Policy Memorandum. Stronger still: the words ‘air cargo’ are not mentioned. Nothing about the impact corona has had on aviation, nothing about the international rediscovery of full freighters and the record number of flights, nor about many airlines investing in brand new aircraft. The coalition agreement does, however, say something about aviation in general, but this is then immediately followed by the measures to be applied to the sector in the context of achieving climate targets. The Cabinet notes, in general, that due to Schiphol airport, the Netherlands has excellent connections with the rest of the world. The Cabinet emphasises that Schiphol ensures, both directly and indirectly, a great deal of employment. And, also partly due to Schiphol, the Netherlands is an interesting location for internationally operating businesses. And, the Cabinet writes, we want to retain that strong hub function. But immediately thereafter to indicate that attention must be given to the negative effects of aviation which, according to the Cabinet, requires “an integral solution offering certainty and perspective for both the hub function of Schiphol and the environment around the airport”. The Cabinet will take a decision on this in 2022 and in so doing will “include the opening of Lelystad airport as well as looking at low-level flight routes”. The aviation sector can therefore count on a substantial flight ticket tax (400 million per annum target) and on aircraft fuel becoming more sustainable. It will become compulsory to mix biofuel and the production of synthetic fuel will be stimulated. The Cabinet supports European plans for the introduction of a tax on kerosene.
So much now for the Coalition agreement; later we will see if it is in line with the Aviation Policy Memorandum and, by reading between the lines, try to glean the future aviation policy.
But first something about aircraft fuel sustainability. What the coalition agreement does not indicate is that much has happened in the EU context in this area. The magic words are ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel’ (SAF), liquid fuel with no or significantly lower CO2 emissions than currently used kerosene. SAF is to be added to kerosene up to specified maximum levels as an additive.
Essentially there are three variants of which hydrogen is seen as the aircraft fuel of the future. However, far in the future as hydrogen has three times the volume of kerosene and therefore will not fit into the fuel
tanks of current aircraft. Models for hydrogen-powered aircraft are on the drawing board but it is estimated that realisation will take 30 years. The second variant is biofuel based on recyclable waste products. According to experts, mixing biofuel could generate a serious reduction in CO2 emissions in existing jet engines. The third variant is synthetic fuel made from CO2 existing in the atmosphere and hydrogen. Green electricity is used in the production thus the name e-fuel. This could totally replace kerosene but initially would also be used as an additive. Apparently, it is very expensive indeed.
The focus therefore lies with biofuel and last summer the European Commission announced that, from 2025, the use of biofuel as an additive to kerosene will become compulsory. European fuel suppliers and airports will have to ensure that SAF is added to the fuel being supplied and airlines will have to purchase this fuel. The first five years SAF will be 5% and every five years thereafter the percentage will be increased, up to 63% in 2050.
The plans for e-fuel are less ambitious: E-fuel will have to be added from 2030 starting with 0.7% and increasing every five years to 28% in 2050. In 2050 91% of kerosene will have been replaced by biofuel or e-fuel. The EU is at the forefront with this measure. The question is what the rest of the world will do? And, of course, the question also arises, how the payment circuit will work? I suspect that a ‘Decarbonisation Surcharge’ will quickly see the light of day – on top of the ticket tax, kerosene tax and other levies. If I now try to align the Coalition agreement (‘Agreement’) with the Aviation Policy Memorandum (‘Memorandum’) and, by reading between the lines, I venture the following assumptions:
• The Agreement makes, for the first time, a distinction between holiday flights (4%) and the budget airlines (17%): these being the Easyjets,
Vuelings, etc. • A year later, the Agreement antici-
The Rutte IV coalition agreement is, if this is possible, even less specific than the Aviation Policy Memorandum. Stronger still: the words ‘air cargo’ are not mentioned. Nothing about the impact corona has had on aviation, nothing about the international rediscovery of full freighters and the record number of flights, nor about many airlines investing in brand new aircraft.
pates a decision on the opening of
Lelystad airport in 2022. • In view of the forecast for the number of Lelystad flights the
Agreement seems to indicate – whilst utilising this distinction in the Memorandum – that, in anticipation of a decision in 2022 on the opening of Lelystad to gradually move holiday flights there. • If I listen to the various circuits, this will be accompanied by a few court cases. • Due to corona, we have recognised that full freighters make a substantial contribution to Schiphol’s network function, directly and indirectly ensuring much employment and therefore contributing in part to the strong hub function that the Cabinet wants to retain. • Some voices are even calling for full freighter operations to be labelled as vital infrastructure – considering the transport of essential products in uncertain times, such as during a pandemic, climate-related floods and
natural disasters, or as a result of geopolitical developments. But full freighters also offer the business world and consumers the security of a constant flow of goods in the international value chain. Consider here computer chips, spare parts for industry, the explosive growth in e-commerce, etc. • It appears therefore that freighter operations are an integral part of the Cabinet’s policy, side by side with the other transport segments contributing to Schiphol’s hub function.
However, at the same time, even after Lelystad opens, many full freighters will not be able to meet the EU Slot Regulations for obtaining and retaining slots.
It is essential therefore that the slots for full freighters – we are talking here of 3.5%-4% of all slots – be guaranteed. And thus we come back to the much discussed separate slot pool for full freighters which could be taken up in the Capacity Declaration set by Schiphol twice each year. The Minister can intervene in the Capacity Declaration but, from the Agreement, we can infer that this intervention would be contrary to – albeit implied – policy.
Here too, court cases should be expected – and, as far as I am concerned – Schiphol can face them with confidence.
We will see!
Essentially there are three variants of which hydrogen is seen as the aircraft fuel of the future. However, far in the future as hydrogen has three times the volume of kerosene and therefore will not fit into the fuel tanks of current aircraft.
Independent Aviation Lawyer firstname.lastname@example.org
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