RTL Nieuws stripped flight movements based on data from Flightradar and WingX. As of August of this year, there were a total of 1,868 private flights of less than 200 km in size in the Netherlands. These are, for example, flights from Amsterdam to Rotterdam (51 km), Maastricht-Liege (44 km) or Eindhoven-Antwerp (80 km). This year, there are already 28 percent more of these types of short trips than there were in the same period in 2019.
Ultra short trips make up 9% of all private trips. In the first eight months of this year, Dutch airports received 21,653 private flights, an increase of 38 percent compared to 2019.
Empty taxi trips for locker
Dutch government planes also regularly fly between Dutch airports, this year at least 26 times. This is usually done to pick up a minister and then take him to the final destination. The government put a business jet in Amsterdam and one in Eindhoven.
For example, the PH-GOV flew to London from Amsterdam on March 14 of this year, Defense Minister Olungren. But on the way back it was dropped off in Rotterdam, after which the Boeing 737 returned to Schiphol empty. The other plane, the Gulfstream, initially flew empty from Eindhoven to Rotterdam on April 14 to fly from there to Bulgaria. On the way back, they first flew to Rotterdam, and then went empty again to Eindhoven.
In response, the Ministry of Defense said that it is customary to take ministers on their way to a foreign destination. A Ministry of Defense spokesman said: “The reason people do not board at Eindhoven Air Base is that most passengers have a functional relationship with The Hague. By boarding there, their time can be divided more efficiently.”
The data show that this did not happen in 2022. In recent years, government planes often flew without passengers between Dutch airports.
1000 liters of kerosene to save time for 20 minutes
Assistant Professor Joris Melkert says short trips have a significant impact on the environment. He is affiliated with TU Delft as an aviation expert. On a flight from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, PH-GOV consumes approximately 1,000 to 1,200 liters of kerosene. Departing from Rotterdam Lozere Airport from The Hague saves only 20 minutes of travel time compared to departing from Schiphol.
From an environmental point of view, such a short trip isn’t wise, Melkert says. “Then you say, ‘Let the minister drive his official car to Amsterdam, then you will have much lower emissions.'” Because such a trip by car would emit about 8.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide, while the arrival of government planes to Rotterdam costs about 2,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
According to Melkert, it is important to deal more efficiently with special devices, so that the disadvantages of this type of transmission are minimized. “Try to consider the minimum environmental impact when planning departures for these types of flights. Also try to take as many people as possible on such a flight at the same time. And try not to let planes fly empty. That is a shame.”
9000 km without a passenger
However, it’s not just so short flights that the government regularly allows government planes to fly empty to transport ministers, according to research by RTL Nieuws. For example, on May 18 this year, PH-GOV was flown empty from Tel Aviv to Rotterdam. This was done to transport Prime Minister Rutte and Minister Getten back and forth to a conference on sustainable energy in Esbjerg, Denmark. The plane then flew 9,000 empty kilometers from Amsterdam back to Tel Aviv, picking up Minister Hoekstra from his visit to the Palestinian Territories.
The State Department did not wish to respond to a question as to why Minister Hoekstra could not be brought back from Tel Aviv on a scheduled flight. Only a spokesperson stated that “serious and well-thought-out consideration” is taken before each flight.
Most of the very short trips within the Netherlands are made by private business jets. For example, Jumbo CEO Frits van Eerd’s plane has flown at least 24 flights since January, with takeoffs and landings at a Dutch or Belgian airport. Pioneering couple Nikki Plessen and Robin Pontikwe flew 10 ultra-short flights. And the device, which is owned by cosmetics king Raymond Klostermann (founder of Rituals), has flown at least 30 extremely short flights within the Netherlands or Belgium in the past year.
This does not mean that these short trips are actually made by these entrepreneurs. Many private jet owners also lease their planes through charter airlines. For example, Klostermann says in a response that he has only used the device twice this year, both times on a business trip abroad.
Robin Pontikoy also says he has taken one very short trip this year, the other trips within the Netherlands have been chartered to another party. He himself once stopped from Amsterdam in Maastricht, on the way to Ibiza, to pick up acquaintances. Frits Van Erdt could not be reached for comment on the PH-CJM flight pattern.
Who has a private jet?
More than forty commercial or private aircraft are registered in the Dutch aviation registry. For example, Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen and John de Mol’s private jet, PH-TLP is named after Talpa.
Many of these aircraft are not only for personal use, but are also rented. This also happens with the private jet of Nikkie Plessen and her partner Ruben Bontekoe. The boards of Shell and RTL also have several jet aircraft to fly back and forth to the main offices in London and Luxembourg respectively.
The industry is not happy either
According to Business Aviation, short flights are a by-product of chartering the plane and are also known as GPS flights. According to Robert Baltus of EBAA, the industry association for private jet companies, they themselves are not satisfied with those short flights. After all, they are taxing the device and therefore relatively expensive.
“The flight may have arrived in Rotterdam at night and should leave Amsterdam the next day for another client. You’d prefer not to, but the plane should go there,” Baltos says. Depending on the industry, short trips are sometimes necessary for maintenance.
Increase private trips
Flying business jets has become more popular than ever since the Corona pandemic. Regular airlines have reduced the number of flights due to Corona, causing the aircraft group and the top of the business community to switch to private aviation. This summer was added to the heavy crowds at European airports, providing an additional boost to the sector.
According to aviation expert Melkert, the environmental impact of private flights should not be overstated. The sector is responsible for approximately 4 percent of total aviation emissions. But emissions per passenger are much higher on a private flight. “Let’s say we’re looking at the government plane PH-GOV, which seats about 25 people. This is actually a converted Boeing 737-700, which normally seats 150 people. So the flight is six times as polluted per passenger.”
In this paper, the research editors of RTL Nieuws used data for recorded flights to and from Dutch airports. This data comes from two sources. On the other hand, from FlightRadar24, a live flight tracking platform. In addition, data from WingX, an aviation consultancy specializing in commercial airline traffic, was used.
Based on WingX’s rating of business flights, including private jets, total flights were calculated for each airport. Specific flights were assigned to specific aircraft, such as government aircraft, using data from Flightradar.