The slot problems at AMS will bring Brussels Airport 10 to 12 extra freighter flights per week, says Head of Cargo Steven Polmans. Yet, he sees no specific reason for celebration. On the landside, the airport carries on with its expansion and upgrading programme.
SIA stocks up in BRU
Four additional SIA Cargo flights, doubling the carrier’s BRU frequency, are the first gain for the Belgian airport from the slot scarcity up north. According to Steven another two carriers – the names of which he cannot disclose yet – are to be expected very soon. “Their combined volume will increase our non-DHL-related freighter tonnage by around 30 percent.”
That is the reason why the BRU Cargo team has asked these newcomers not to launch more flights than the ones they are transferring from AMS. “Contrary to the usual procedures when acquiring a new customer, we do not get a long notice. This sudden increase has a great impact on the whole operation and the organisation of the workforce needed. This is a difficult operation for the airline as well as for the handlers and the truckers.”
Steven doesn’t open a bottle of champagne
Steven is fully aware that the new customers have not opted for BRU for the quality of the airport itself, but because they were forced out of AMS. He expects, however, that the situation will not change easily. “Even if AMS would be able to get a new slot allocation system in place, it will not allow further growth on the short term. That will depend on the longer-term new agreement that needs to be negotiated in the Netherlands. Although we are happy with this growth, we did not open a bottle of champagne after these latest flight relocations.”
Slot problem at AMS has brought a lot of emotion
Over the last few weeks the discussion about the slot scarcity and its impact on the cargo volumes at AMS and by extension the status of the Netherlands as a logistics hotspot, has been coloured a lot by emotion, Steven thinks. “The volume lost corresponds to their growth over the last 2 or 3 years. In 20 years’ time it will appear to have had no impact whatsoever on the development of AMS or the logistic position of the Netherlands. “I cannot believe that these events will truly damage the mainport status of Schiphol and trust that a long-term solution will be found for them.” The downsizing of DHL Express in 2008 cost BRU 30 to 40 % of its volume, Steven recalls. “On the other hand, we have never had the ambition to become the number one cargo airport or have the mainport size Schiphol has.”
Impacting ground handlers at AMS
Dutch trade body Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) estimates that as many as 37 of the 150 freighter flights per week could be lost during the winter season as a result of the slot restrictions.
ACN has warned that most freighter operators are looking to move flights to Brussels, Liege or German airports, where they are “received with open arms”.
The reduction in freighter services is also likely to severely impact ground handling companies at Schiphol Airport. The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FVN) has said that many jobs could be lost, and 101 positions have already been cut by Menzies Aviation at the airport.
Schiphol Airport is not directly involved in the slot allocation, which is undertaken by an independent body, Air Co-ordination Netherlands (ACNL).
On and around the tarmac Brussels Airport keeps following its own course. Over the years to come, Brucargo West will be expanded with a new 50,000-m² airside development. With this the airport will be able to accommodate a much longed-for third cargo handler. “As the present licenses are expiring, the actual handlers - Swissport and Aviapartner - will have to re-apply and the tender will be extended to a third party,” says Steven. This process is currently happening and early next year, the names of the ground service providers that had obtained a license should be known.
New Inspection Point for animals
On the landside of Brucargo West between 8,000 and 9,000 m² of warehousing will be built that will be at the disposal of any interested party. In the historical Brucargo zone, reconversion is gaining pace. Ziegler, one of the largest still independent Belgian freight forwarding and relocation companies, is building new premises in the ‘2020’ zone.
Another new project is the upcoming Inspection Point for live animals. The facility will be built in between the premises of Aviapartner and Swissport. The decompression chamber occupying the lot will be demolished. “We want to set up one central border inspection post for live animals,” Steven explains. “The intention is to subcontract the exploitation to a specialised company, but we will build the facility ourselves.”
Marcel Schoeters / Nol van Fenema