Kalitta Air could be forced to quit Schiphol freighter flights

By Damian Brett

US all-cargo carrier Kalitta Air may have to axe its operations to Schiphol airport after 15 years as a result of capacity shortages at the Dutch hub.

In a Department of Transportation (DoT) filing, the airline hit out at the “domination” of the Dutch airport by members of the Sky Team alliance and said a local rule designed to aid freighter operators had failed to help its cause.

It is therefore faced with the prospect of having to end services to the Dutch hub.

Kallita explained that it is currently the only US carrier that offers scheduled all-cargo services between Amsterdam and the US, flying twice weekly from New York JFK with Boeing 747-400F aircraft.

The carrier said that in 2017 it lost its “historic” slots at the airport because its services did not meet expected arrival time requirements.

Kalitta explained the reason it missed these targets is that the eastbound legs were dictated by the US Department of Defense, which uses the flights for military charter flights to the Middle East.

Because the carrier had lost its historic slots, it would need to rely on unused slots returned by other carriers in a “hand-to-mouth” fashion.

However, these are becoming increasingly scarce because the airport is reaching its slot limit of 500,000.

“This has artificially constrained the airport’s capacity, and effectively foreclosed new entry as well as threatened to eliminate some existing service,” Kalitta said in its filing.

“The only winners in this situation, of course, are the largest incumbent slot holders at [Schiphol].”

In response to its loss of historic slots, Kalitta filed a complaint under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act against the Dutch government, the Airport authority, and the slot coordinator in January on the basis that it was being deprived of the four weekly slots necessary to perform the services guaranteed under the US-European Union Open Skies Agreement.

Kalitta said the complaint was dismissed when the ‘local rule’ was adopted at Schiphol, which gives priority to all-cargo airlines for a certain percentage of the returned slots.

However, it claims that the local rule is only applicable to carriers with historic slots, something it lost in 2017.

“Despite the carrier’s repeated and continuing efforts to obtain slots, come Winter 19 season on October 27, it appears that Kalitta will have no slots, as its requests have been refused, and it is on a lengthy wait list.

“The airline is still operating with the 37 slots that it has accumulated for the summer season, but it has yet to obtain any for the winter.

“Lacking any slots at the beginning of the season, the carrier may finally have to terminate its 15-year Amsterdam scheduled service.

“For a US carrier to be forced out of Amsterdam would be very damaging to the US Government’s efforts to secure fair and equal treatment for its carriers.”

Kalitta’s DoT filing was in response to an application by Sky Team members; Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, Air France KLM and Alitalia for anti-trust immunity (ATI) to form two parallel joint-venture (JV) agreements.

The DoT has tentatively approved the JVs but recogninses that the SkyTeam Alliance already controls 59% of the slots at the airport, Kalitta said.

The Department reasoned that none of the airlines’ competitors are at this time trying to obtain slots. It also required that the alliance submit a self assessment in five years time.

However, Kalitta said it is trying to actively gain slots at the airport and described the self-assesment requirement as a “very weak and far-off attempt to address a grave situation which already exists — insuperable barriers to entry at a vitally important European hub airport”.

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