In the Netherlands the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management and the slot coordinator are at each other’s throats about the commercial agreement between KLM and AirBridgeCargo on the use of slots at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Dutch press agencies report.
The agreement will put an end to the possible closure of the Russian airspace for KLM. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has said that the problem had been
‘acute’, but that it has now been solved.
The deal implies that KLM would transfer part of their AMS allocated slots to ABC, but neither the ministry nor the airline has revealed specific details in this respect.
"Blackmail apparently pays off"
Sources close to KLM say that code-sharing is the key element of the deal, meaning that the ABC flights would be given a KLM flight number and thus be considered as KLM flights.
The dispute on the closure of the Russian airspace was a direct consequence of ABC’s loss of slots at AMS, forcing it to divert some flights to Liege Airport and Frankfurt-Hahn Airport. Caroline Ditvoorst, Managing Director slot coordinator ‘Stichting Airport Coordination Netherlands’ (SACN) has expressed her disappointment over the deal, stating that ‘blackmail apparently pays off’. “The cabinet has obviously bowed to the Russian Federation,” she said. Ms Ditvoorst has expressed fears that the agreement would create a dangerous precedent.
For the winter season only
Her opinion is shared by Joost van Doesburg, Manager Public Affairs of the Dutch airline pilots association VNV (Vereniging van Nederlandse Verkeersvliegers). He says that ABC only had itself to blame for the loss of slots. “The principle behind the allocation system is that carriers are supposed to use 80% of their allocated slots, which they neglected to do.”
Joost fears that Russia will take the same course towards other airports. “On top of this, this deal does not solve the slot scarcity problem for the freighters at Schiphol,” he concludes.
Dutch government remains tight-lipped
The responsible Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen denies that the government has given in to the Russian demands. Experts think that the chances that other airlines that fell victim to the slot scarcity problem at AMS will follow the Russian example are small, as Russia has an unmatched geopolitical position.
If all of the above becomes reality this week, then we can expect very irate actions from other freighter operators who have also been denied “slot-access” this winter. This surely now brings up again the competitive aspect for all other freighter carriers in and out of AMS. Some may rightly argue that KLM and ABC are controlling the Schiphol market and where does the code-share aspect really end?
Both Liege and Hahn, who readily and without any political fuss, took up the reins to accommodate carriers, will be looking nervously at this new development.
Marcel Schoeters, Brussels / John Mc Donagh, Frankfurt