JetBlue Questions Viability Of Temporary Amsterdam Slots

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Credit: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Following repeated attempts to enter the U.S.-Amsterdam air services market and a request for government intervention, JetBlue has been granted temporary slots at Amsterdam Schiphol.

The airline said it accepted the slots but questions their viability. 

“The Amsterdam slots that we have been granted are on a seasonal temporary basis, which means JetBlue could face immediate expulsion from the airport within months of launching the route,” a JetBlue spokesperson tells Aviation Week. “We will continue to vigorously pursue permanent slots via all available avenues, including with the U.S. Department of Transportation [DOT].”

An initial complaint to the U.S. DOT was lodged by JetBlue in February, in which the carrier requests intervention on the heels of “diligent attempts to gain entry to the U.S.-Amsterdam air services market,” alleging a violation of Open Skies by Dutch authorities. JetBlue announced the temporary slots in a new filing on March 21. 

“After years of requests and denials, the slot coordinator for AMS, Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL), contacted JetBlue on March 8, 2023, a day after the due date for answers in this proceeding, with an allocation of slots,” JetBlue writes. “Although JetBlue accepted these temporary slots (which are at commercially questionable slot times), ACNL has confirmed to JetBlue that it will have no claim to historic rights for the slots’ continued usage during the IATA Winter 2023 scheduling season and beyond.”

Though the original times offered by ACNL would have necessitated a departure from New York JFK at 1:20AM ET, the slot coordinator improved the times in subsequent correspondence, “with significant day-of-week schedule variability,” JetBlue noted. Previously assigned to now-defunct Flybe, JetBlue says the slots “are of questionable long-term viability,” and reiterates its request for DOT intervention.

Capacity Cap Complaint

In the new public filing JetBlue also voices concerns on the Dutch government’s call to reduce takeoffs and landings at Schiphol to 440,000 a year (a 12% reduction from its current cap), in part to lower noise pollution in the heavily populated vicinity of the airport. JetBlue argues the policy would prioritize carriers with existing access, writing, “In other words, new entrants will be indefinitely excluded from AMS once the Balanced Approach is implemented.” 

It joins concerns voiced earlier in March when airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) challenged the legality of the plan. 

“The job-destroying hostile approach to aviation that the Dutch government has chosen is a totally disproportionate response to managing noise,” IATA Director General Willie Walsh said in a March 3 statement. “The government has even refused to engage in meaningful consultations and made flight reductions the goal, rather than working with industry to meet noise and emissions reduction goals while restoring employment and revitalizing the post-pandemic economy. The dangerous precedent that this illegal approach creates left no choice but to challenge them in court.”

Schiphol would be JetBlue’s third European city destination once service to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) begins in June, joining existing London routes to both Heathrow (LHW) and Gatwick (LGW). A previous request for slots formerly held by Aeroflot was denied in September 2022.

In a statement to Aviation Week, ACNL said it applied the prioritization rules as set out in the European Slot Regulation for all airlines. 

“For the 2022/2023 winter season, JetBlue has not requested any slots,” ACNL wrote. “Therefore, no grandfather rights have been built up from which a direct entitlement to slots for the winter season 2023/2024 follows. JetBlue is therefore dependent on there being a slot pool and what priority their application has over other slot applications from other airlines. JetBlue has been informed about this by ACNL as well as the Dutch government’s intention to reduce the number of available slots at Schiphol from the winter season 2023/2024.”

It added, “For the 2023 summer season, ACNL was able to offer slots to 20 airlines on a non-historical basis as a result of the return of slots to the slot pool due to the temporary capacity reduction at Schiphol due to staff shortages and from the bankruptcy of Flybe. It is for JetBlue to accept this offer or not in light of the circumstances as outlined earlier.  Each airline makes its own consideration in this.”

Christine Boynton

Christine Boynton covers air transport in the Americas for Aviation Week Network.