Business aviation at Schiphol Airport

28 June 2020

It’s still unclear what aviation will look like after the impact of the coronavirus and the climate crisis. Meanwhile, one segment has received relatively little attention: business aviation. In this article, I’ll try to explore business aviation at Schiphol Airport. As always, the analysis comes with some caveats.

I will look into departures from Schiphol Airport that have been classified as serviceType: N. While you won’t find this category in the documentation of Schiphol Airports flight api, flights in this category are operated with Cessna Citations, Bombardier Challengers and Learjets, Dassault Falcons, etc. Also, some of the aircraft registrations in this category correspond to aircraft that, according to media reports, belong to some of the richest 500 people in the Netherlands. All in all, it seems reasonable to assume that serviceType: N probably represents business aviation.

The map below shows destinations of serviceType: N departures from Schiphol Airport in 2020.

Most flights have destinations within Europe. Some are even within the Netherlands, including a few flights per month to Rotterdam. While the most popular destinations are Paris and London, destinations like Nice, Cannes and Innsbruck are also high on the list. As a recent report on business aviation commented:

While the sector’s name implies that the aircraft are operated for business purposes, a lot of the time these aircraft are used by wealthy owners and renters for leisure purposes. This is borne out by the fact that Mediterranean and Alpine airports feature prominently in the traffic data.

An interesting question is what happened during the lockdown. For background: this report from 9 April says the French police aux frontières refused entry to ten passengers who arrived in a private jet at the airport of Marseille. They wanted to spend a holiday at the Côte d’Azur, but were refused because they didn’t have a valid reason to travel. British media have reported that hundreds of private aircraft have landed in the UK since the lockdown went into effect (cf). The ceo of a private charter service said: «Many of these flights will be legitimate repatriations from around the world. I would hope those abusing the rules are in the minority.»

The chart below shows how the number of serviceType: N departures from Schiphol Airport has evolved over the year. As with aviation in general, there’s a drop in the number of departures since half March.

If the data is correct, quite a few serviceType: N flights were still being operated after half March. The destinations are similar to those before the lockdown: often London, but also Nice and Cannes.

No data is available about serviceType: N flights from Schiphol Airport after 10 June 2020. Apparently, the airport has stopped publishing this data.

Background: business aviation

According to a report by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), business aviation represented about 4% of departures from Dutch airports in 2017, which would seem a high number. For Schiphol, the percentage was lower, given the large number of regular flights.

Last March, the EBAA asked governments to make state support available to its members (‘consider all recovery and relief measures available’). It argued that this would help the recovery of the wider economy.

UPDATE 11 July - For what it’s worth: companies active in business aviation like Exxaero (Eindhoven), Jet Aviation (Schiphol) and Vistajet (Malta) indeed appear to have received state support in the Netherlands, according to a preliminary list of companies receiving subsidies to pay for wages (under the NOW programme).

While the EBAA emphasises that its members are trying to reduce air pollution, it has been estimated that business aircraft emit 10 to 40 times as much carbon dioxide per passenger as scheduled commercial flights.

A recent report commissioned by the Haarlemmermeer municipality found that there’s a risk that Schiphol Airport may be used to smuggle drugs and drugs money in private aircraft. Anyone with sufficient means can easily rent a private jet and security checks are superficial compared to regular flights.


I used data from the Schiphol flight api and checked this with data published at the plane spotters website Dutch Plane Spotters. All but a small share of serviceType: N flights could also be found at the spotters website. Airport data is from OurAirports; data on aircraft types from Wikipedia.

28 June 2020 | Categories: amsterdam, data