Given the continuously troublesome slot issue at Schiphol Airport, why not bring cargo flights into a pool of free flight movements, together with private jets and military aircraft? This is suggested by Dutch MP, Daniel Koerhuis, in his capacity as rapporteur on the revision of the EU Regulation on slot allocation.
Mr Koerhuis was mandated as a member of the Parliamentary Commission Transport & Water Management, to strengthen the information position of the commission as well as to propagate and reinforce parliamentary efforts in Brussels.
If there is one thing that he has learned from his rapporteur mandate, it is that the revision of the EU Regulation in question is not given much urgency among EU decision makers. Only recently did the Commission decide that the new regulation will not be published during the 3rd term of this year but will be postponed until after the present Commission’s tenure. As it is, the only ardent advocate for prompt action in this respect is the aviation industry.
A question of slot pools
During his discussions with the EC, the idea emerged that a free slot pool alongside the normal slot pool, could be extended to include cargo flights. The comparison was made with free flight movements applicable for private jets and military aircraft. These could be put in a pool of their own, and be offered for cargo flights, too. “From the moment some of these free flight movements become available, the airport could transfer them to this pool.”
Unlike the slot pool, free flight movements do not generate any rights. It remains a matter of calling and checking if landing or take-off is possible. “Air cargo is by far a branch of transport in which it is uncertain when and how much has to be forwarded. So, having to call and ask for landing/take-off possibilities seems to fit in with the needs of the industry,” says Mr Koerhuis. A solution that may apply to cargo charters. As an upgrade to this concept, Mr Koerhuis suggests more enforcement possibilities for the airport management.
One slot pool only
The rapporteur learned that while air cargo is the greater job creator, it does not contribute much to Schiphol’s operating profit. From his discussions with several stakeholders, however, Mr Koerhuis has concluded that having two separate slot pools appears to be no option. “It is legally impossible and will meet with resistance from the EC, because passenger flights can take cargo too and the EC may thus consider cargo flights as another form of competition. Within this context, separate sets of regulation may then be seen as distortion of competition.”
According to Mr Koerhuis, most carriers prefer one pool and there is not much enthusiasm for a dedicated cargo leg.
Free fall looms
Air Cargo Netherland’s Managing Director, Maarten van As, says that the report has made clear that the ministry, the Schiphol management, and the majority in the Second Chamber now finally realize that, unless more room is created for cargo aircraft at Schiphol, ‘free fall’ looms.
“How this protection will take shape is very complex. The DG Move lawyers certainly do not want it to be called a ‘pool’, as the European slot regulation mentions one pool only”, he says.
“DG Move has also pointed out that the movements cap (impacting the slot capacity), is a strictly Dutch political decision, and that the EU is not willing to get involved in choices made by the member states, let alone try to solve problems as a result of this.”
According to Mr van As, this means that, in the Netherlands, a solution will have to be found that fits into the European Slot Regulation. “This is something we are working out thoroughly, but it is far from simple. There are three courses of action to be explored:
1. Creating room through a capacity declaration by Schiphol
2. The optimization of the Local Rule, from which little is to be gained because of the reduced cap on the number of movements
3.,as Mr Koerhuis suggests, provide the slot coordinator with the necessary tools. As ACN we are in talks with the ministry, Schiphol, and the slot coordinator.”
Schiphol vows to protect cargo business.
When contacted by CargoForwarder Global, AF-KLM-Martinair Cargo did not wish to comment on Mr Koerhuis’ findings. Through its press office, Schiphol Airport says that it is taking the report seriously by developing feasible measures. “Schiphol plays an important socio-economical role as a cargo airport.”
“As mentioned earlier, with our 8-point plan, we will devote ourselves to the protection of cargo flights by reserving 2.5% of our take-off and landing slots for these flights. In this way, the airport continues to be an important cargo airport, and we can guarantee that its infrastructure is optimal for, amongst others, the Dutch manufacturing industry,” stated Megan Hoff, Spokesperson Corporate Affairs, Schiphol Airport.
Marcel Schoeters in Amsterdam
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