Being the Netherlands’ second cargo airport next to Schiphol, is both a blessing and a curse for Maastricht Aachen Airport (MST). In an exclusive talk with CFG, Managing Director Jos Roeven stresses that the airport has a clear role to play within the projected Dutch aviation environment.
CFG: Mr Roeven, apparently the proposed new Dutch Aviation policy paper has made some room for Maastricht Airport?
JR: “Of course there is room for us. We are 1 of the 5 ‘airports of national interest’ and the only other cargo airport besides Amsterdam. Before Corona, imminent scarcity was projected in the air cargo capacity in the Netherlands. MST can play a clear and valuable role in this discussion. In order to secure this role for the future, it is of the utmost importance that collaboration is set up between the airports, and that we do not compete against one another. The latter aspect does not seem to be highlighted very well in the policy paper.”
CFG: How does MST cope with weighing economic importance versus the quality of life of the residents?
JR: “The Aviation policy paper is very clear on this: Sustainability and quality for the surrounding residential community through noise management for all the airports, including MST, have been given a prominent role in the Policy. For airports that already had a maximum number of aircraft movements, the principle of ‘deserving growth’ (by compensating it through noise reduction, ms) is new.”
“For MST, however, this principle has never been otherwise. Our present exploitation license is already based on the condition of an overall noise limitation, by setting noise contours. So far, we have not yet reached this limitation, but once we do, we can only have more movements if less noise is produced by these movements. That can be achieved by deploying quieter aircraft or allowing fewer movements in the early morning and the late evening. In this respect, we are already a forerunner.”
Over the first 5 months of 2020, MST’s cargo volume was some 50,067 tons, a 11.05% drop compared to 2019’s 56,289 tons over the same period. Last year, the total volume was 111,456 tons. Not only does MST have to cope with the presence of LGG in its backyard, the fact that it has to limit the use of its 2,750m runway to 2,500m - for the purpose of noise reduction - has forced some carriers to take their business elsewhere. And, then there was Covid-19, of course.
CFG: Mr Roeven, how did the Covid-19 outbreak impact operations at MST?
JR: “Even before the global outbreak, some consequences became visible in the cargo volumes. As early as January 2020, the outbreak of the virus led to a considerable drop in global freight volumes. That is clearly visible in our volumes for the first three months. April seemed to suggest a modest rebound, and in May we noted further growth, also compared to last year.”
“The initial drop was a direct consequence of the loss of belly capacity and the urgent need to transport pharmaceuticals, testing tools, face-masks, etc. in full freighters. In this business, MST only plays a minor role, but the fact that the airport walks on two legs - passengers and cargo - means that the negative impact of the crisis is more limited compared to passenger-only airports.”
“Cargo airports that have less limitations concerning opening hours and runway length, now make record figures. That this is not the case for MST, is also the result of the cargo slots that were made available at Schiphol and which are now offered to MST customers. The expectations for June and July are that the rise of cargo volumes at MST will stabilize.”
CFG: Which frequencies have been expanded and by which companies?
JR: “Of the 5 existing scheduled carriers, Saudia has extended its frequency from 3 to 5 flights per week. Emirates and Silkway have moved their operations temporarily to Amsterdam, even if Emirates has, in the meantime, relocated some flights to MST.”
CFG: Any newcomers?
JR: “Certainly: Qatar Airways and Worldtech, with Ethiopian making a comeback after a 4-year absence.”
CFG: Which types of cargo have been more apparent over the last few months?
JR: “A lot of pharma, medical equipment and PPEs, but also fresh products like vegetables, fish, and other food products.”
Marcel Schoeters in MSTstricht
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