Schiphol's 2019 cargo traffic suffering from freighter slot constraints

AMSTERDAM Schiphol Airport saw movements of all-cargo aircraft in 2019 drop by 11

30 January 2020 - 19:00

AMSTERDAM Schiphol Airport saw movements of all-cargo aircraft in 2019 drop by 11.2 per cent year over year due to ongoing freighter slot constraints.

The continuing restrictions of full freighter slots pulled down annual air cargo demand at the European gateway, with volumes dropping across all markets, reports IHS Media.

Europe's fourth busiest airport posted a nine per cent drop in total air cargo volume to 1.57 million tons as the impact of full freighter slot constraints was worsened by a weakening global air cargo market.

A report by researcher EUROCONTROL estimates that by 2040, 16 airports in Europe will be plagued what it calls, 'Heathrow-like congestion,' which refers to being at full capacity throughout the day.

Under the slot system, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) requires all carriers, both freighter operators and passenger airlines, to operate at least 80 per cent of the services to airports that they have planned within a winter or summer season, and meeting that target will allow the carriers to hold their slots for the next corresponding season.

However, it is a use-it-or-lose-it ruling that disproportionately affects freighter flights because of the more haphazard nature of air cargo demand compared with strictly scheduled passenger flights.

The impact of these slot constraints at Schiphol saw volume carried by all-cargo aircraft drop by 13.2 per cent last year compared with 2018, with space issues contributing to a decline in air transport movements by freighters of 11.2 per cent year over year. The volume of belly cargo carried on passenger planes was down 2.3 per cent.

Schiphol's director of aviation marketing and cargo Maaike van der Windt said operating in a slot-constrained environment was challenging and worsened by a year when the air cargo market saw virtually no peak season.

Inbound cargo volume decreased by 9.8 per cent last year to 791,613 tonnes, while outbound cargo fell 7.2 per cent to 778,648 tonnes. Worryingly, the year-end figures revealed a decrease in volumes across all markets, apart from a slight increase in the Middle East inbound segment.

Following Schiphol's severe space constraints that affected 2017 and 2018 freighter traffic, a 'local rule' was introduced where airlines would return slots that were unused to a pool, and 25 per cent of those returned slots would be allocated to full freighter flights.

Mr Van der Windt said Schiphol was seeking a resolution with the government of the Netherlands to better maintain full freighter flights that are a key logistics driver for the airport.

ACI Europe has taken up the cause, and said in a position paper that urgent reform of the slot allocation system was needed at Europe's heavily congested airport hubs, calling the 27-year-old regulation well out of date and unreflective of the fast-evolving aviation industry.

The airport association said the market has changed drastically since the initial publication of the European Union Slot Regulation in 1993, and the rule had to be reviewed if future traffic growth was to be possible within the slot allocation rules.


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