Freighter movements fall at AMS, while Kalitta Air files complaint over slot allocation

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) reported a 2.5% decline in freight volumes and 10.4% drop in full freighter movements year-over-year for 2018, as freighter traffic at the airport has been challenged since 2017, when AMS began enforcing a rule requiring operators to keep to scheduled operational time “slots” 80% of the time or risk losing them.

According to a statement from the airport, total air traffic movements stood at 499,444 – slightly under the 500,000 annual maximum cap in place until 2020. AMS expects that figure to remain steady during 2019. Total cargo throughput at the airport for 2018 stood at 1.7 million tonnes, thanks to a 4.1% y-o-y increase in cargo moving in bellies of passenger aircraft.

The largest cargo market for AMS was the Asia-Pacific region, with inbound volumes at about 299,000 tonnes and outbound volumes at 303,000 tonnes – a decrease of 1.1% and 4.2%, respectively. Among destination cities, Shanghai saw the greatest share of cargo ex-AMS, with Asia-Pacific demand driven by e-commerce shipments.

Other regions saw sharper y-o-y declines, with inbound traffic from other European airports falling 6.9 percent, the Middle Eastern region declining 9.1 percent into and 10.0% ex-AMS, and imports from North America falling 8.4% y-o-y.

One North American cargo carrier is particularly displeased with operations at the airport. On 29 January, US-based ACMI and charter operator Kalitta Air filed a complaint against The Netherlands, AMS, and Stichting Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL) with the US Department of Transportation, seeking sanctions or “other appropriate measures” and alleging that the parties named wrongfully withheld slots for Kalitta’s scheduled cargo services. While Kalitta has continued to operate its US service to AMS without assigned slots, in late November 2018, AMS issued a cease and desist notice to the carrier.

In the filing, Kalitta argued that ACNL is required to allocate necessary slots for bilaterally-guaranteed operating rights under the US-EU Transport Agreement, and that ACNL “wrongfully failed to accord Kalitta historic slot status,” given that Kalitta has operated scheduled twice-weekly cargo operations between AMS and New York aboard 747 freighters for the past fifteen years. The filing noted that Kalitta is the only US all-cargo carrier operating between AMS and the US, and asserted that denial of slots during the Winter 2018 season amounts to “harmful and discriminatory treatment.” Documents attached to the filing also note that Dutch carrier KLM and its Transavia subsidiary have historically operated the most flights outside of its assigned slots – 162 and 145 total, respectively, in 2017 – and have not been subject to enforcement action that Kalitta has.

The filing concludes by requesting the DOT “restrict or suspend cargo air transportation by Dutch carriers until the current anticompetitive situation has been equitably resolved.” AMS, ACNL, and Cozen O’Connor, the law firm representing Kalitta Air, have not yet returned request for comment.

Those interested in learning more about freighters and carrier trends are invited to join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, to be held 15-17 at the Langham Shanghai. For more information, or to register, visit