Freighter slot shortage a global challenge, claim shippers


The lack of capacity at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol which is forcing freighter operators to seek new bases is part of a wider squeeze on cargo operations at leading hubs, according to the European Shippers’ Council.

As reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, some 20% of freighter flights will be culled from Schiphol’s schedules this winter season, which began at the start of November. And, according to the ESC, the Dutch hub is not the only leading airport suffering from a lack of slots.

“Already Frankfurt, Beijing, Mexico, and Hong Kong are facing the same issues where the growth of the low-cost/leisure segment at these airports is threatening full freighter operations,” said Rogier Spoel, Air Transport Policy Manager at ESC.

“If the number of full freighter flights drops, this will immediately hurt the rest of the supply chain, hamper the economic investment climate, and result in a loss of jobs.”

The trend in continental Europe is likely to result in more freighter services being forced into secondary airports such as Liege, Maastricht, and Frankfurt Hahn, said Spoel.

However, he warned, at some of these airports “environmental restrictions are much tougher, proper infrastructure is lacking and cargo facilities are outdated”.

He added: “The biggest problem of all is that the major airports are currently the centres of expertise for air cargo. Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam are all leading air cargo airports with a strong level of competition. They are customer-service oriented and are continuously striving for innovation and efficiency of air cargo handling.

“Air cargo handling will deteriorate to a mediocre level through the secondary airports.”

ESC would like to see IATA take steps to prevent further supply chain disruptions caused by freighter operators losing slots at key hubs.

“It all starts with IATA regulation on slot allocation,” said Spoel. “Here, the 80-20 rule is defined, and there should be a 70-30 provision made for full freighter flights.

“The 80-20 rule means that for an airline to keep its historic rights on slots at an airport it needs to fly 80% on time. These IATA regulations are imposed through EU regulations and national rules.

“Changing the game at IATA would help maintain full freighter operations at the major airports.”