Airports increasingly are contested areas where many sustainability aspects are relevant. Especially in cases where airport development and urban development coincide, the actors involved are engaged in decision-making processes where only a small subset of the broader scope of sustainability issues is discussed. In this article we use a conceptual framework building on complexity theory to shed light on this phenomenon and its consequences for the case of Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands. First, we analyze the systemic causes for the narrow debate about sustainability. We then use the framework to recommend ways forward to broaden the debate about the sustainable development of airports by creating the institutional space for a reflexive and collaborative dialogue.