Schiphol organises crisis consultation on upcoming loss of cargo flights

Schiphol has initiated a comprehensive cargo consultation, bringing together „the government, the cargo industry and the airport“ to find a „concrete“ solution to the acute shortage of cargo slots at schiphol.
The initiative was announced by Hanne Buis, Schiphol Group operations manager, at the Nieuwsblad Transport Air Cargo Conference last week. The airport informed on Monday that invitations for next month’s meeting have already been sent to interested parties. According to the airport, this is due to „specific measures“ and the discussions will also go beyond cargo pools.

The cabinet’s planned reduction in the number of flights at Schiphol from 500,000 to 440,000 from the 2023 winter season would „disproportionately affect the Dutch air cargo sector“, the air cargo conference revealed last week. Some officials, such as cargo handler Dnata, which accounts for 40 per cent of Schiphol’s cargo throughput, have even threatened to „reconsider“ investments in Schiphol if the downsizing plan goes ahead. Air cargo umbrella ACN fears that up to 30% of cargo flights could be lost to Schiphol if alternative solutions are not found.

Aviation lawyer Frans Vreede pointed out during the meeting that a solution in the form of a separate slot pool for cargo flights at Schiphol is legally possible and would solve the impending loss. According to Vreede, this could enable the industry to guarantee around 20,000 flights. Schiphol’s cargo pool could be included in the airport’s capacity statement and should be run by an independent slot coordinator, Vreede said. There is no discrimination in passenger flights, Vreede said, because cargo and passenger flights do not compete with each other and are „completely different worlds“. EU slot rules also allow for such local solutions, he argued.

It is not yet known whether Schiphol is seeking a solution in the form of a cargo pool with a guaranteed number of slots. Schiphol director Hanne Beuss spoke at the Air Cargo Conference last week only about the possibility of Local Rule 3.0, which has to be drafted and approved by the Dutch Coordination Committee (CCN). In this committee of all airlines at Schiphol, passenger airlines with home carrier KLM have an overwhelming majority. In the past, these parties have opposed separate cargo pools with guaranteed slots in the air cargo sector.

Years ago, after difficult negotiations, CCN agreed to an alternative, Local Rules 2.0. Most unused slots at Schiphol came into the hands of transport companies. With plans to reduce the number of flights at Schiphol to 440,000, ACN says this arrangement has become more or less useless, as there will be no unused slots because of the lack of flights at Schiphol. Buis also said at the Air Cargo Conference that the government’s reduction plans are very ambitious in terms of time and that it is questionable whether the government’s announced reductions can be achieved within a year, given the final EU regulations.