BARIN New Year Gathering – Emphasis on Amsterdam Airport’s Future

Frank Allard, Chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN) welcomed this year a record number of guests at their traditional New Year gathering which was held at the brand new Schiphol Hilton Hotel on the 8th of January.

Photo (l > r): Pieter Elbers, President & CEO KLM  /  Mrs Sharon Dijksma, Dutch State Secretary Infrastructure & Development  /  Frank Allard, BARIN Chairman  -  courtesy Tycho Mueller
Photo (l > r): Pieter Elbers, President & CEO KLM / Mrs Sharon Dijksma, Dutch State Secretary Infrastructure & Development / Frank Allard, BARIN Chairman - courtesy Tycho Mueller

Special guests
Keynote speaker Pieter Elbers, President & CEO of the KLM Group and Mrs Sharon Dijksma, the new Dutch State Secretary of Infrastructure & Environment, were the special guests at the evening event.

The Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Hilton which hosted the BARIN event for the 12th time in succession also took advantage of having so many high level airline management guests by offering to show them around the new Hilton which was completed last month. The old Hilton will be torn down soon.
It is no secret that the new hotel was funded by the Schiphol Group and is run by the Hilton organization.
Very impressive, must have cost a fortune and some mumbling was heard from members of the audience that at the end of the day it was also the airlines who operate through SPL that are also partly carrying the bill.

Is there a future for Dutch aviation?
The question many Dutch nationals and members of the aviation scene pose, is whether the Dutch national carrier has anything at all to say within the Air France - KLM consortium and whether it is now high-time that the government pushes for KLM to “go-it-alone” again.

Pieter Elbers was quite specific in his address to the audience, but diplomatically steered away from the above issue.

His message was that 2016 should be a year of “cooperation and innovation.”
He stated that resolutions are all well-and-good, but that it’s his view over 90 percent fail due to lack of follow up action.

But who should KLM cooperate with -and how?
He emphazised the fact that almost 300.000 jobs in the Netherlands are connected with SPL Airport and that it’s important that international and domestic positions are strengthened.
He mentioned that other airports in the region are somewhat jealous of Amsterdam’s past innovative moves and that fair competition is paramount.
But is KLM itself being fair in its attitude towards other carriers who want to increase cargo flights into Amsterdam for example?
KLM has to re-innovate itself he said and this process has started already in 2015 with various internal changes, cost saving measures and new investments such as fleet updates with the introduction of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner into the fleet.

Mr Elbers stated that KLM closed the previous year with some notable cooperation agreements in the bag.
Namely, Facebook, Alibaba and the agreement with China Southern Airlines on future coop.

Cargo takes the back seat

Apart from mentioning that a new cargo warehouse will open in 2016, nothing was said to the audience about the danger of Amsterdam losing its cargo status altogether.

  • customer dissatisfaction about KL’s diminishing cargo product and lack of dialogue with them as to what the future brings.
  • the phasing out of the B747-Combi fleet, which leaves even less capacity on offer for cargo clients.
  • Martinair, now more or less disposed of and no replacement capacity on hand.
  • blocking cargo competitors at SPL, although many are of the opinion that foreign carriers have to take up the slack where KLM has left off.

These and other issues have driven a once proud and effective cargo airline almost into oblivion.
The cargo community and in the meantime some airport managers themselves, are openly critical of KL’s position and the danger of losing more ground as a logistical centre within Europe.

Which direction will the new State Secretary take?
BARIN Chairman, Frank Allard, welcomed Mrs Dijksma and on behalf of all members wished her much success in her new position as State Secretary for Infrastructure & Environment.
Sharon Dijksma started her political career in 1994 as a member of the Dutch parliament. Her most recent position was as State Secretary for Economic Affairs which she held from 2012 to 2015. She took up her present role in November of last year having replaced State Secretary Wilma Mansveld who was forced to stand down.
The Infrastructure & Environment Department holds responsibility for the Dutch Air and Rail sectors and environmental matters related thereto.

Mrs Dijksma expressed her concern regarding the challenges and problems facing today‘s Dutch aviation scene.
She stressed the fact that it is her view that strong cooperation between all parties concerned is needed in order to solve the problems facing the industry.
Her audience would have been grateful if she‘s been in a position that evening to elaborate somewhat more on this.
She used the expression - “it takes a village to raise a child” - which was meant to highlight the fact that the community must stand together.
But, who takes the lead? That question still remains!

The BARIN chairman took the opportunity to point out their ongoing plea to continue lowering Schiphol airport charges further in order that the airport can remain competitive in the future. He added that implementation of further cost efficiency matters, funding of future investments and a solution for the pressing capacity restraints, are items high on the list.
BARIN believes that Schiphol Airport’s main shareholder, namely the Dutch government should decide to reinvest the large annual dividends it earns from the airport back into its infrastructure.

100 years Amsterdam Airport
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport will celebrate 100 years of operation in September of this year.
Frank Allard congratulated the airport’s President & CEO, Jos Nijhuis on this milestone and also stressed the fact that both BARIN and the airport both try to serve the best interests of their customer and member airlines, although this is not always simple considering that varying interests which have to be taken into account.
One of the main ones being bringing down the airport charges even further.

There’s a lot more to be done apart from so called cooperation and innovation if SPL Airport is to try and keep on top for another 100 years.

John Mc Donagh

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