A rather odd incident has blown-up between the Netherlands and Russia.
Confirmed reports state that Russia has threatened the Netherlands with a ban of over-fly rights in Russian airspace. It appears to be concerned with an argument over landing slots at Schiphol airport for cargo flights.
The Russian cargo airline AirBridgeCargo, which is part of the Volga-Dnepr Group, has had the number of slots available to it at Schiphol reduced as the airport has attempted to rationalise its capacity in the face of growing demand.
For some reason, of which details are not obvious, this has lead the Russian government to threaten to retaliate by banning Dutch Airlines from Russian airspace.
A report in the Dutch newspaper Der Telegraaf, stated that the Netherlands Department of Infrastructure was talking to the Russian government. A Dutch Government spokesman is quoted by Reuters as saying “It’s only a threat but you have to prepare……Russia does this sometimes when it feels countries aren’t giving appropriate attention to a complaint.”
The underlying problem is one of rapid demand growth and an airport infrastructure that is struggling to keep-up. After years in the doldrums, the global market for air cargo is now growing at around 10%. The growth in demand for passenger services is even faster. The effect is that airports are short of space.
The response by Schiphol has been to rationalise slots based on utilisation. There is a semi-formal rule for slot rationalisation based on the 80-20 Pareto Principle, whereby any airline that fails to run 80% of its scheduled services out of a particular slot is vulnerable to losing that slot. It is probably likely that certain types of freighter operators are more vulnerable in the application of this rule than passenger or express operators who need to sustain a schedule. This may be part of the root of AirBrigeCargo’s grievance.
In any case the Russian cargo airline has recently expanded into Liege, which is likely to be both cheaper and have more capacity available than Schiphol. However, the incident does illustrate that there is probably a need for cargo-orientated airports if freighters services are able to sustain themselves economically.
Author: Thomas Cullen
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