The end of 2017 is nearly in sight. It has been an eventful year and I expect yet more is likely to happen. Air cargo has grown strongly at Schiphol Airport during this past year. We are in a boom period: month after month we have seen cargo volume grow just as it has at the airports around us. Very positive although sometimes it creaks and groans. This growth is really good, but unfortunately, it became obvious at the beginning of this year that we cannot keep on growing at Schiphol. The slots problem is hitting the cargo sector at AMS hard. We foresee a substantial drop in cargo flights. It is the first time that Schiphol and its users have been faced with a shortage of slots, and – unlike some other airports with slot shortages – we have barely been able to got used to it: 1) it is a (temporary) ceiling set because of (noise) nuisance in the area but operationally the ceiling had not yet been reached and 2) the strong growth in recent times has been so great that the ceiling was reached sooner than we had thought. In any event: we cannot throw in the towel.
“Never waste a good crisis” is my adage. Together with airlines, other cargo parties, the Slot Coordination and the responsible transport Ministries, Schiphol is working to better align cargo in Schiphol’s (slot) operations. It is also good to use this period to apply quality improvements to allow more efficient use of the limited capacity. We can only achieve such improvements by communicating, trusting each other and working together openly and transparently. Initiatives such as the Smart Cargo Mainport Program, the Holland Flower Alliance and also Pharma Gateway Amsterdam show how professional and mature the Netherlands air cargo sector is. Again and again our strength is having private and public parties willing to put their backs into a quest for quality and efficiency. With such an attitude we ensure the importance of a strong cargo hub in Amsterdam.
At the time of writing we are in uncertain times. The slots for winter 2017 have (for the main part) been allocated and there is a significant shortage of cargo flights. The Hague has reacted positively to the proposal from the cargo community for a ‘local rule’; thus allowing a form of priority for cargo flights in slot allocation. But we must wait to see how things turn out. It is important that now, and in the near future, we continue to communicate openly with all cargo partners, however difficult this may sometimes be. My door is open.
Jonas van Stekelenburg
Head of Cargo
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol