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Dutch organisations, including KLM and the government, are fighting back over Kalitta Air’s claim that its slots at Schiphol Airport were “wrongfully withheld”.
Last month, the US cargo carrier called on the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to restrict or suspend KLM’s US cargo operations due to a complaint made against the Dutch government, Schiphol (AMS) and Stichting Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL).
Kalitta claimed “unjustifiably and unreasonably discriminatory” actions to restrict its access to the Amsterdam-New York route.
In a filing to the DoT, KLM said it “strenuously objects to any such unjustified action”.
It argues that Kalitta had “failed to demonstrate it suffered discrimination”, and that negotiation is better than retaliation, “particularly where, as here, the other government is a longstanding open skies partner of the United States”.
The carrier added: “To the extent Kalitta may be experiencing difficulties with its AMS operations, it is the result of Kalitta’s own failure to abide by AMS’s longstanding and well-known slot policies and requirements.
“Kalitta cannot and should not be permitted to leverage its admitted failures at AMS into a successful argument for imposing restrictions on KLM or any other Dutch carrier.”
KLM also denies receiving preferential treatment from the Dutch authorities, saying the claim was “patently false”.
“In KLM’s experience, ACNL has been scrupulously even-handed in its treatment of airlines. The discrimination Kalitta alleges simply does not exist, and Kalitta’s false narrative provides no basis whatsoever for retaliation against KLM or its affiliates.”
Interestingly, KLM also suggests Kalitta go to another airport, notably Maastricht, Cologne or Liege, and said it should not be the subject of sanctions when Kalitta has other options.
Meanwhile the Dutch ministry of infrastructure and water management, on behalf of the government, submitted a filing which argues that in fact there is no correlation between traffic rights and the right to slots at Amsterdam, one basis of Kalitta’s claim. In addition, it says the government has no jurisdiction on the allocation of slots.
ACNL submitted a letter arguing there were “some errors of fact in Kalitta’s complaint”.
Kalitta has, however, garnered some support, perhaps surprisingly, from Americas carrier JetBlue – which apparently has European aspirations.
The US carrier argued that the restriction of slots at Amsterdam “only serves to further deter the introduction of competitive services from new entrant carriers like JetBlue, and restrict US carrier rights under the US-EU Open Skies Agreement”.
It added that antitrust immunity had been given to Deltam Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM, and thus the case “especially warrants review”.
“JetBlue is keenly aware of the threat that immunised alliances can pose to the ability of small airlines to compete in the global marketplace. JetBlue strongly believes that airport access, including the availability of gates and slots to promote competition, must always be paramount when the department is carrying out its international aviation responsibilities.”
It urged the DoT to “promptly approve Kalitta’s complaint and take steps to address the alleged withholding of slots at AMS”.