DALLAS — JetBlue Airways (B6) has filed a complaint against the Dutch government and the European Union regarding a proposed capacity cap at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS).
The Schiphol cap saga moved forward in July 2023 when the Amsterdam Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision, allowing the Dutch government to establish a temporary experimental scheme pending a response from the European Commission. In the meantime, the airport has been granted a nature permit, allowing it to temporarily reduce capacity while the final decision is pending.
A new player in the US-Dutch market, B6 has raised concerns about the potential expulsion from AMS if the Netherlands proceeds with the scheme to significantly reduce airport capacity. The carrier argues that this scheme disregards legal procedures and fails to provide access for new entrants, violating the US-EU open skies air agreement.
JetBlue Airways operates flights to AMS from two cities in the United States: New York and Boston. The flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) depart daily at 7:30 PM and arrive at AMS at 9:15 AM the following day. The flights from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) depart daily at 9:00 PM and arrive at AMS at 9:15 AM the following day. The flight duration is approximately 7 hours and 30 minutes.
The airline is now calling for significant measures to be taken in response to what it perceives as a threat of expulsion from Schiphol in 2024 due to the proposed cap. The complaint was filed under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act (IATFCPA) and is supported by a separate complaint filed by Airlines for America (A4A) on the same issue.
Schiphol Capacity Cap
While AMS’ goal is to make aviation “quieter, cleaner, and better,” the Dutch government’s plan to reduce capacity at Schiphol has faced legal challenges, with various airlines and industry entities opposing it.
The newly proposed restrictions limit the number of annual flights at Schiphol to 452,500, which is nearly a 10% reduction compared to 2019’s statistics. The Dutch government’s plan to reduce flights by 12% can go ahead, according to the ruling by the high court.
Apart from B6, the decision was also met with pushback from airlines at the airport, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL), Delta Air Lines (DL), Corendon (XC), easyJet (U2), and TUI (TU), which have launched a legal challenge citing violations of EU regulations.
The aviation sector argues that the proposed capacity cap will have severe consequences for trade relations. The carriers have said that reducing Schiphol’s capacity from 500,000 to 460,000 flights per year would negatively impact the airport.
Alternatives to the Capacity Cut
The Dutch government’s plans to cap annual operations at Schiphol, starting in the summer of 2024, include a further reduction in the following winter season. According to ch-aviation.com, B6 claims that these reductions will result in the confiscation of carriers’ slots at the airport, and based on communication from Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL), it expects to receive no slots for the summer of 2024.
JetBlue believes that the Dutch government’s actions are unjustifiable and unreasonable restrictions on access, which should be addressed under the IATFCPA. The airline also urges the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to take responsive action by imposing schedule filing requirements on Dutch-flagged carriers flying to the US. This would allow the DOT to determine reciprocal reductions, sending a clear message to Dutch carriers and their government about defending the bilateral rights of US carriers.
KLM also shared a statement with Ch-aviation, responding that it was disappointed with the decision made regarding the experimental rule and intends to pursue a cassation case to demonstrate that the procedure followed does not comply with legislation and regulations.
The Dutch airline added that it was participating in the EU’s balanced approach procedure, presenting an alternative plan that focused on achieving noise reduction goals without implementing a lower cap on flights.
KLM has consistently warned the Dutch government about the potential consequences of forced downsizing.
This is a developing story.
Featured image: N2151J JetBlue Airbus A321LR KBOS BOS. Photo: Marty Basaria/Airways