The slot scarcity at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) took a dramatic turn after a threat from Moscow to close Russian airspace to Dutch planes if AMS refused to accommodate more aircraft slots for Russian airline AirBridgeCargo (ABC). As Dutch newspaper NRC reported, Air France-KLM signed an agreement on Nov. 3 to lend ABC slots for this winter season, heading off a more urgent crisis.
To retain slots at the airport, carriers are required to operate a minimum of 80 percent of flights on time to specified destinations – a struggle for many freighter operations that often change their schedules to accommodate last-minute customer needs. ABC moved up to 12 weekly freighter flights to Liège Airport in Belgium after Schiphol reduced the carrier’s slots from 23 to 13.
Caroline Ditvoorst, slot coordinator at AMS, told NRC that the Dutch government could set a dangerous precedent by giving in to the threats over Russia’s airspace, as other carriers may try to gain space at European airports in the same way.
Schiphol Airport’s slot shortage became a hot topic last month as several airlines began moving freighter traffic to other airports, including Brussels Airport and Liège. Dutch industry associations said they expect 20 percent of freighter flights to and from AMS will be cancelled this winter season, as freighter operations there struggled to secure slots after the airport hit its annual maximum of 500,000 air traffic movements.