The accusations by Kalitta Air that they were discriminated against and lost their slots at the ultra-busy Amsterdam hub because of tardiness has been forcefully rejected.
Kalitta Air blamed the situation on the US military commanders at their origin point, delaying their desired departure for Schipol.
Under the UIOLI – use it or loose it – rules applied internationally, the slot administration withdrew the Kalitta Air slots, which because of the demand and slot restrictions are desperately needed for other airlines.
The argument was that Kalitta was late more than 80% of the time, often by hours.
KLM Cargo was the beneficiary. Kalitta fielded a complaint to the US DoT who have presented an argument to the Open Skies arbitrator at the EU.
In something of a twist, the argument was strongly supported by, of all airlines, JetBlue. They don’t even fly across the Atlantic, but have made no bones about the likely possibility.
Kalitta claimed it was discrimination on the basis of favouritism towards KLM, and JetBlue supported that, suggesting they want, but cannot get, slots at the airport.
The response from KLM and Schipol was a torrent of ‘factual corrections’ which in effect shredded Kalitta’s arguments.
Kalitta, while not saying it outright, effectively suggested some sort of deliberate connivance to exclude it to give KLM the slots.
The counter argument was strongly worded rebuttal pointing out the decision is down to a slot administrator at the airport, who is legally obligated to be fair and impartial, within the rules laid down and near-universally agreed. Neither the airport or the government has a say and the airlines certainly don’t.
Indeed, the strength of the wording in both sides submissions was exceptional, leaving nobody in doubt about how deep feelings are running.
Schipol Cargo operator’s are being told that their slots are and will remain ‘at risk’ if they don’t use them. The airport is above its accepted legal annual capacity and local residents are strongly opposed to letting it have more. The government isn’t likely to do anything about it in the face of near unified opposition.
Schipol was at the centre of a major row in 2017/18 with Russian carrier ABC and the Volga-Dnepr Group over slots. That was only resolved when against government and airport advice, KLM caved in when the Russian Government said it would block KLM from its airspace to Asia, one of its main arteries, unless it got its slots back. KLM wasn’t even the beneficiary of the slots, but gave up some of its own to appease the Russians and keep its routes, a precedent that they and others may come to regret.