Schiphol’s local rule finally gains approval

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport at night

Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has finally given approval for a local rule at Schiphol Airport that will see freighter operators gain priority on  slots returned for re-issue.

The local air cargo community has been campaigning for the implementation of the local rule since 2017 when it was clear that the airport would soon reach its limit of 500,000 aircraft movements per year.

The local rule will see freighter operators have priority on the first 25% of all returned slots. The Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN) group said it would also give airlines greater options to adjust their schedules without losing their historical slot rights.

“This is good news for the airfreight sector,” ACN said. “Extra slots will become available as a result of this local rule, but it is also an important signal that the Minister recognises the importance of airfreight for the Dutch economy.”

Slots may be unused due to bad weather or operational reasons.

Cargo carriers say they have suffered disproportionately due to the lack of slots because, under existing IATA rules, any airline that uses more than 80% of its allocated slots acquires a historic right to them and will automatically be allowed to operate its flights next season. But those that use fewer than 80% of their allocated slots automatically lose them.

All-cargo carriers, with their less regular schedules, often find it difficult to comply with the 80% rule.

In the meantime, several freight operators have moved services to nearby airports in order to maintain services. Last year, full freighter flights at the airport were down by 10.4%.

The local rule will enter into force on August 31 and will be evaluated after one year. There are also hopes that the number of slots Schiphol is allowed could increase from winter season 2020 when its allocation is due for review.

However, some have questioned how much of an impact these two measures will have for freighter operators given the number of slots that are returned each year. Also, it is expected that any slot increases will be staggered over the coming years.