A local rule that would bring a fairer treatment of cargo carriers at AMS Schiphol Airport will not be in place by this coming summer season. CargoForwarder Global spoke exclusively with Managing Director Maarten van As and Director Innovation and Compliance Ben Radstaak about the slot saga limiting cargo traffic at one of the leading European airports.
Last year, ACN adjusted its organisation to strengthen its role as a mediator between the industry, policy makers and the public perception. Ben Radstaak (BR) passed on his position as MD to Maarten van As (MvA), who was brought in from Zeeland Seaports, to take on new responsibilities.
CFG: What’s behind this swap of competencies within ACN?
BR: “We felt the time was ripe to engage in a more active form of lobbying in The Hague for the cargo interests at Schiphol. As you know, in 2017 the airport got under a lot of pressure as the cap of 500,000 yearly movements had been reached. This created slot scarcity, leading to the exit of some freight carriers.
In the role as ACN’s managing director I am mainly responsible for two tasks: Firstly, stimulating innovation and compliance projects within the air cargo
community. Secondly, stay in close contact with the controlling authorities for exchanging views.
The role of my colleague Maarten van As is comparable with that of an ACN foreign minister, discussing traffic and cargo issues with politicians and keep his fingers on the pulse of the airport’s surrounding community.”
CFG: In 2008 it was decided that AMS could no longer be allowed to grow indefinitely, leading to the 500,000 ceiling to be held in place till 2020. Since
then the discussions on the expansion of AMS are held in a commission made up of representatives of the airport, the aviation industry, residents and local as well as provincial politicians. The
commission was supposed to come forward with a unanimous advice to the government last Christmas.
Instead of expanding Schiphol, it is now discussed if moving some flights - especially in the leisure segment - to nearby Lelystad Airport would be the better solution. But even so, the question remains if the regulator will offer cargo airlines more slots in Schiphol. Local market observers are sceptical. They believe that the regulator will pass on free slots to low cost carriers rather than cargo airlines. Apparently, this is not to the liking of ACN as Maarten vas As points out:
MvA: “The Dutch cargo industry is still waiting for a comprehensive Aviation Policy for Schiphol, involving other airports, too. Especially for the freight industry a more intensive use of Maastricht Aachen Airport was considered as a partial solution. However, also in the southern province of Limburg, where Maastricht is located, the resistance of residence is firm.”
CFG: So, does ACN think that the local rule will be implemented – or rather not?
BR: “The implementation of a local rule to safeguard some slots for these carriers has been going on for
almost 2 years now. The crux of the matter is in a more flexible use of slots in case schedules are altered or not honoured. Today that would mean that the slots concerned would be taken away
during the next season. The local rule would seek to guarantee these ‘grandfather rights’.”
“A second point is in the redistribution of unused slots, which are given back to the airline community. The local rule would reserve 25% of these slots for cargo carriers. Some textual interpretations have held up the final implementation of the ruling. We have to admit that this will not be possible for the coming summer season.”
“In a way, freight carriers have to blame themselves, as some cargo airlines tend to take a more flexible approach to their schedules. These are carriers from abroad. They have a preference but no specific ties to AMS and just want to fly to Europe.”
Marcel Schoeters from Amsterdam