The US government is considering countermeasures and has requested flight schedules from KLM for flights to and from the US. Jetblue wants the Biden administration to cancel KLM flights to the US, which KLM describes as ‘very harmful’.
Budget airline JetBlue says it has the right to land at Schiphol on the basis of a treaty, but the Ministry of Infrastructure denies this. The two countries will hold talks on Monday.
The conflict arose after the cabinet decided to reduce the number of flights at Schiphol from 500,000 to 452,500 per year to ensure less inconvenience to local residents. Because many airlines still want to fly to Amsterdam, choices have to be made in allocating so-called ‘slots’. These are periods during which aircraft are allowed to land and take off.
Airlines that have been using Schiphol for a long time are given priority. Director Hugo Thomassen of the ‘slot coordinator’ ACLN says: “There is simply no room left for JetBlue and 23 other parties. Historical rights are the first to be forgiven and there is simply little room beyond that.”
JetBlue, which started flights to and from the Netherlands from Boston and New York last summer, is angry that it will be left out next summer. The company said in a response to RTL Nieuws: “We believe that the US and the Netherlands have an obligation, based on the Open Skies Treaty, to ensure that JetBlue has continued access to Schiphol.”
But a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure contradicts this: “This claim from JetBlue is not correct.” According to the ministry, the agreement concerns the use of each other’s airspace and airports, but no slots can be derived from it. “Traffic rights and slots are not the same, and the EU-US Open Skies Treaty does not guarantee slots.”
KLM received a high-pitched letter from the American government asking them to provide information within a week about the number of flights the company operates to and from the US. A spokesperson said they would respond to this, but said they had also warned the Dutch government that the shrinkage at Schiphol could lead to retaliation from other countries. “We have repeatedly pointed out possible consequences to the government. This possible ‘retaliation effect’ is very harmful for KLM.”
The US is an important market for the airline. If KLM were allowed to fly less, it would cost a lot of turnover.
An ongoing argument
The US and the Netherlands are now entering into consultations to resolve the situation. US correspondent Erik Mouthaan reports that the parties are in pretty bad shape. “It’s starting to take the form of a diplomatic row, with countries accusing each other. They’re pointing fingers at each other.”
In the meantime, the conflict is creating uncertainty for consumers, who will probably not be able to travel to the US with JetBlue next summer. And if the US indeed sanctions KLM, Dutch people would get into trouble with travel plans.
That could be a blow for KLM, thinks aviation expert Joris Melkert from TU Delft: “It depends a bit on how bad it will get. If you talk about 1,000 flights per year, that is two or three flights per day that have flown less. Then we are really talking about tens of millions on an annual basis, if not more, so that is a solid story.”