KLM has struck an agreement with AirBridgeCargo (ABC) over landing rights at Schiphol Airport heading off a threat by Russian authorities to ban the Dutch carrier from overflying its territory. ABC had recently lost 10 of its allotted 23 slots at Schiphol Airport due to capacity constraints and was gradually moving its flights to Liege Airport in neighbouring Belgium.
This resulted in the Russian government entering the fray and offering up an ultimatum: If KLM did not release slots for AirBrideCargo, the Dutch carrier would not be denied overflight rights over Russian territory. This would mean that KLM flights to Asia would take hours longer, making them much more expensive for KLM due to added fuel costs and hugely inconvenient for its customers.
ABC said in a statement: “As a result of two-days of negotiations, KLM and ABC have come to an agreement, which will allow ABC to fully reestablish its operations to AMS as per its request. The parties involved are to elaborate certain operational details, but in general the agreement in principle has been reached.
“It is expected that ABC will resume its AMS operations in the weeks to come. Both airlines will continue cooperation in order to avoid such situations in the future,” it concluded.
Although neither party, nor their respective governments has revealed the exact details of the agreement, industry insiders say the only possible explanation is KLM’s sharing of its slots. ABC meanwhile, has only said that the requirements of the freight carrier have been agreed and that it will fully resume flights at Schiphol in the coming weeks.
Schiphol could see as many as 37 freighter flights per week disappear this winter as a result of slot restrictions at the hub after the airport community’s worst fears were realised when Air Co-ordination Netherlands (ACNL) announced where slots would be allocated for the winter season.
Amsterdam’s airport can handle a maximum of 500,000 slots per year and growth at the airport means that limit will be reached this year, with all-cargo flights accounting for around 18,000 of those.
In early October, ABC said it would be starting new freighter services at Belgium’s Liege airport, presumably flights that were being shifted from Schiphol. Starting with its winter schedule, ABC said that it will “gradually increase its cargo capacity up to 12 flights per week”. It’s not known what will become of the announced Liege services.
Singapore Airlines Cargo also announced it would be shifting four of its eight Schiphol flights to Brussels Airport and other operators will similarly be impacted although no announcements have been made as yet.