US government backs airlines plea against Schiphol Airport capacity cuts

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Slot allocation issues at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) seem about to escalate into a transatlantic legal dispute.

On November 2, 2023, the Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL) announced that airlines without historical rights at the airport would not receive any slots for the summer of 2024. Furthermore, even those with historical rights will experience a 3.1% reduction in their allocated slots.

The slot reductions are part of a broader government initiative aimed at reducing aircraft movements to combat noise pollution around Amsterdam-Schiphol, one of Europe’s busiest airports. The Dutch government’s goal is to cut the number of flights at the airport to 452,500 per year, nearly 10% less than the 2019 levels.

JetBlue has taken direct legal action against the Netherlands and the European Union. The US airline, which began serving the Dutch capital with routes from New York and Boston earlier in 2023, is seeking additional slots to expand its transatlantic operations.

In its case, the airline alleges that the Dutch government’s decision violates the “open skies” agreement between the United States and the European Union. In retaliation, JetBlue has requested that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) ban KLM from accessing New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Shortly after the ACNL made its announcement, the US government approved complaints filed by JetBlue Airways and the trade group Airlines for America (A4A) against the Dutch government and the European Union, accusing them of violating capacity reduction agreements at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

“In our engagements with the Dutch Ministry, the Department has raised significant concerns and objections to the Dutch government’s methodology for implementing its noise-reduction plan,” the DOT stated in an order seen by Flightglobal, adding that it engaged talks with the Netherlands and the European Union. Dutch airlines were given a seven-day window to provide their US schedules.

Other airlines and industry associations have joined forces to challenge the capacity cuts at Schiphol. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airlines for Europe (A4E), Board of Airline Representatives in the Netherlands (BARIN), Air Cargo Netherlands (CAN), and the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) are actively participating in proceedings against the airport’s new slot allocation policies.

A previous case brought by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the cornerstone airline of Schiphol, was dismissed by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

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