Government Wants to Ban Flights Between Amsterdam and Brussels

There’s a move afoot to end flights between Brussels and Amsterdam, because members of the Dutch government believe the flight is too short.

KLM currently runs 5 flights a day between the two cities.

Amsterdam and Brussels airports are about 125 miles apart if you’re driving, 98 miles by air.

Dutch members of parliament want these flights banned. They say the cities are so close together that people should take the train or a bus instead of flying, in the interests of the environment.

Copyright: flaperval / 123RF Stock Photo

In fact people traveling between the two cities generally do take the train, opting to fly KLM in and out of Brussels when they’re connecting in Amsterdam to points beyond such as making a transatlantic trip or a journey to Asia. It’s not the short hop on the ERJ-175, ERJ-190, or Boeing 737 that’s contributing the bulk of the carbon dioxide emissions from the trip.

KLM flies in and of of Brussels in order to compete in the Brussels market for travel throughout the world, since they operate a global hub. They aren’t filling planes with origin and destination traffic.

Advocates of eliminating the flights suggest that at a congested airport like Schipol there’s no reason to be using scarce takeoff and landing positions for Brussels flights, and that the capacity could be better utilized if people took the train. Of course connecting passengers then must get from the train station to the airport which entails CO2 emissions as well, not to mention inconvenience.

The Dutch government just invested in Air France KLM, it would seem odd to cede market share for the group to competitors like Lufthansa Group (which controls Brussels Airlines) and to British Airways. Despite the claim, by the way, that the UK’s Air Passenger Duty is meant to benefit the environment connecting itineraries originating outside Britain are exempt from the tax (though such passengers are presumably contributing more to emissions).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Of course connecting passengers then must get from the train station to the airport which entails CO2 emissions as well, not to mention inconvenience.”

    Thalys has essentially hourly trains between Amsterdam airport and downtown Brussels. This seems like a situation ripe for setting up a codeshare between KLM and Thalys like the Amtrak-United one out of EWR.

  2. “Of course connecting passengers then must get from the train station to the airport which entails CO2 emissions as well”

    Oh yeah, walking 200m is soo much CO2 emissions… Please realize both airports have a main line train station literally within the terminal building, closer to the security than most gates on the other side.

  3. In Germany there is a codeshare for Lufthansa on the DeutscheBahn, train from Dusseldorf or Cöln to FRA.

  4. I’ve taken this flight a few times from Brussels to connecting KLM flights. it was much quicker than the train ..

    for Paris for my Af flights there’s an AF office who take your luggage before boarding a code-share TGV into CDG.l at the midi train station so it should be doable though for Amsterdam

  5. I came to say the same thing. Hourly train at $60 with advanced booking directly from the airport to Brussels. This coupled with Immigration letting you out at the steps of the train station make this the ideal place to take this train journey. Also, nearly every DeutscheBahn train leaving amsterdam stops here if it’s not an ICE.

  6. KLM/Thalys Train sounds great !

    Thalys has hourly service from Amsterdam Central (also stops at Airport Schiphol) to Brussels City Main station and in reverse direction.

    Oddly, only one train a day in each direction stops also at Brussels Zaventum Airport. Perhaps they can increase the # of trains that make that stop – or dedicate – with Thalys – one train AMS – BRU airports.

  7. Not sure why getting from the train station to the airport involves in CO2 emissions since both airports have a train station & ticketing office in the airport

  8. Actually, people will likely connect to other hubs further away like Frankfurt or London which will increase the total carbon output.

  9. Unlike in the US, in Europe most airports are built with train hubs. In the case of AMS, I’ve ironically connected there when traveling by train far more often than by plane — just about every city in NL has direct service to AMS. I agree with the dutch government. With AMS built literally on top of the main high speed rail line to Brussels, I’m a bit surprised they haven’t already figured out a code-share thing like UA has with Amtrak through EWR.

  10. Garry with all the respect you should study the topic better.

    Brussels Midi station has a ZYR code. KL has been codesharing with Thalys for at lest 5 years (as far as I can remember and using the service) which connects Schiphol to ZYR and Antwerp directly. There are 10-15 train runs a day, it takes 1 hour and 20 min from Schiphol to ZYR. The only inconveniences:
    – you need to get a paper ticket from a train desk on arrival to Schiphol (though they’re testing online check in for a train segment)
    – you need to carry your baggage on a train ride

    Still its a way better than flying. I can recall last August I took a Thalys train from Amsterdam Centraal to Brussels. It left Amsterdam Centraal basically empty with 5 to 7 pax for a train cart. The next stop – Schiphol – and all the seats were taken (by KL pax).

  11. Is their any data showing these planes exhausts more emissions than a train per person? I get the feeling it’s closer than you think and likely not significant. I also agree this is likely not people commuting to work but connections for longer flights. This type of traffic with people who want to fly to or from Brussels aren’t going to just shift to the train, they’ll likely shift to other airlines and connect elsewhere possibly with less efficient routings producing little change in emissions. Probably causing klm to lose most of their Brussels business in the process. Call me a pessimist but I get the feeling this is more about politics and less about saving the environment.

  12. @Denis – a codeshare with a train, and a connecting train, is not better than a single flight

    Pardon me, I can’t get what you’re talking about. There are direct trains between AMS and Brussels city centre that have KL code and sold as part of KL itineraries that run hourly. You don’t need to take commuter train or anything. What’s better than this?

  13. The whole Dutch railway system is powered by alternative sources like wind and sun. Ergo, no CO2 emissions.

  14. @DEP, yes, there is evidence, tons of studies have been done about emissions. Trains can have as much as 10x fewer emissions per passenger mile. Short haul flights are paritcularly bad (larger percentage of time spent at the energy intense climb than the efficient cruise). This is a fun website that lets you compare emissions for different modes on specific routes:

    Not to mention, train lines are electrified (mostly), which means that there is a potential for them to eventually be powered by completely zero-emission energy, while planes cannot be. Plus, just from a generic energy efficiency PoV, rail is the basically the most efficient means of transport (very low rolling resistance from metal wheels on rails) and planes are about the least efficient (incredibly fast acceleration needed at start, need to lift a bunch of weight into the air, etc.).

  15. It is possible to travel by train between the two airports in 2 hours. Once everything else is taken into account, flying is unlikely to beat that. As others have pointed out, the obvious solution would be a codeshare between KLM and the rail operator.

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