The ministerial approval of the so-called ‘Schiphol Local Rule 2’ was published in the ‘Staatscourant’, the Dutch government’s official mouthpiece. The rule will apply as of the winter season of 2019/2020 and throughout the summer season of 2021. However, forwarders point out that the decision does not ease the slot shortage situation.
In an addendum, the article stipulates that the objective of the Local Rule is ‘to enhance the possibilities to make full use of available capacity for the benefit of all types of traffic in
accordance with prevailing rules and regulations and to safeguard the continuity of sustainable operations by airlines and maintain the reliability of their schedules.’
This local rule only applies to slots allocated for daytime departures and arrivals, with an exception for the so-called ‘slots for incidental and unexpected operational variations.’ The latter may not lead to loss of historic precedence, so the documents says. The local rule will be evaluated after the first year or earlier, when deemed applicable.
Priority for incidental and unexpected operational variations
The slots that become available during an IATA season from returned and non-operated slots (actual data) after the historical baseline date for that applicable IATA season will be gathered in an ‘In Season Slot Pool (ISSP).’ Any transferred slots from the previous season are not included in this ISSP.
When allocating ad hoc slots from the ISSP, the highest priority is given to incidental and unexpected operational variations. On a seasonal basis a provision will be made to serve this purpose.
The Dutch aviation authorities insist that it is necessary to use the scarce capacity at AMS in the most efficient way and at the same time assure that planned operations can be continued as much as possible. “Therefore, high priority is given to incidental and unexpected operational variations as for instance AOG’s (Aircraft on Ground) and diverted flights and the consequences thereof.”
Out of the number of returned slots, per IATA season, Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL) shall make available a reasonable number of slots as a provision for such cases, based on experience of the last five years.
The remaining slots of the ISSP will be divided according to the 75%-25% ratio for the respective classes of all commercial passenger flights and all commercial cargo flights. This should ensure the needs of the traveling public and the shippers.
Only actually returned and non-operated slots can be put in the ISSP.
Cargo flights need short-term decisions …
The authorities admit that the cargo industry operates in a more demand-driven way than the passenger business, which is more offer-driven.
That means that it is more difficult for cargo flights to work out a schedule well in advance. Therefore, cargo flights are more dependent on the availability of slots which can be put at their disposal at very short notice rather than well in advance.
… but certainty on schedule planning just as well
It remains to be seen, however, if the local rule will have any inflience on the slot distribution at AMS. “Of course, the ruling is a positive thing, but it is not THE solution,” says Marcel Stuehmer, Amsterdam Cargo Manager of SIA Cargo. “Of the unused slots 25% will be reserved for the cargo carriers, but 25% of hardly anything is still not very much.”
Kuehne+Nagel also remains skeptical about the benefits of the new rule: “After the slots for cargo operators were significantly reduced, the new local rule is an improvement. It does however not change the fact that there is still a shortage in slots for cargo operators (supply vs. demand),” stated Angela M. Schmidt, Senior Corporate communications Manager at K+N.
There are alternatives to AMS
An additional obstacle is mentioned by Mr Stuehmer who points to Brussels as an operational option to Amsterdam: “A big advantage for us is that short-term planning should be easier,” he admits. “From the schedule point of view, however, this does not count. We will always have to wait to get something. Certainty on schedules is very important for cargo operators, luckily we as SIA Cargo have Brussels as operational option.”
Yet, being Dutch, Mr Stuehmer regrets that the Netherlands don’t offer cargo carriers any viable alternatives to Schiphol. SIA Cargo has retained three scheduled flights at AMS, vs officially nine in Brussels. “Of course, we would like to be able to plan six to seven flights in AMS,” Mr Stuehmer concludes.
As things stand, he will have to wait longer for this to happen – if at all.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam