The saga at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s largest hubs, continues.
Less than two weeks after Airport Coordination Netherlands (ACNL), which controls Schiphol’s slots, confirmed that JetBlue was among some two dozen airlines at Schiphol that would be denied takeoff and landing rights for summer 2024, the Dutch government on Tuesday said it was abandoning its plan to cap the number of flights at Schiphol next summer.
In a letter sent to the Dutch parliament on Tuesday, infrastructure minister Mark Harbers, said the plan is now suspended “until further notice.”
“I emphasize that the cabinet is still committed to restoring the balance between Schiphol and its environment,” the letter stated, according to a Reuters report.
In August, JetBlue launched its first routes to the Netherlands with nonstop service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), followed by service from Boston Logan International Airport in September. Prior to that, legacy carriers Delta, KLM, and Air France had largely dominated those routes.
Airlines were told of ACNL’s new restrictions on November 2, the latest development in an ongoing controversy around the Dutch government’s continuing efforts to curb traffic, emissions, and noise at Schiphol.
But the proposed summer expulsion for JetBlue from Schiphol didn’t exactly bode well for international travelers hoping to take advantage of the newly added flights between the East Coast and Amsterdam during the high travel season.
JetBlue and the U.S. government contested the decision
Not surprisingly, JetBlue pushed back against ACNL’s restrictions and, according to the U.S. government, its protests had merit. In September, the airline filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) against the Netherlands and the European Union over the Dutch government’s planned cuts at Schiphol, which have received widespread media attention over the past year, claiming they violate the U.S.–EU Air Transport Agreement. It added another filing in late October, requesting the DOT to ban KLM, the flag carrier of the Netherlands, from JFK if the proposed curbs were implemented, Reuters and other media outlets reported.
On November 3, the DOT issued an order stating that the Netherlands government “has imposed an unjustifiable and unreasonable restriction on access of an air carrier to the U.S.–Amsterdam market. We find that this practice, in the totality of the circumstances presented, constitutes violations of the U.S.–EU Agreement, and we conclude that approval of the complaints is warranted.”
In a statement provided to AFAR, JetBlue said its routes to New York and Boston have “already demonstrated a unique value to customers—offering both low fares and great service in a market dominated by [partner airlines KLM, Air France, and Delta]. We look forward to continuing to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that JetBlue can continue to maintain its presence in Amsterdam going forward.”
Other airlines opposed the restrictions as well
ACNL managing director Hugo Thomassen declined to share which other airlines in addition to JetBlue were going to be denied slots at Schiphol this summer, citing commercial confidentiality. But long-standing carriers at Schiphol also stood to be significantly impacted by ACNL’s proposed restrictions: Thomassen said 84 airlines with historic slots (also called historical, or permanent, slots) would have been required to cut those slots by 3.1 percent starting this summer.
For Dutch flag carrier KLM—one of the most vocal opponents to the capacity cuts at Schiphol, its main hub—those restrictions would amount to about 17 legs per day fewer than prepandemic figures, an airline spokesperson told AFAR.
KLM and other major carriers and industry groups instituted legal procedures against the government’s plans to slash capacity at Schiphol, which had proposed eventually reducing flights to 452,500 per year, nearly 10 percent below 2019 levels.
For now, JetBlue’s new routes from JFK and Boston to Amsterdam are still up and running. And no doubt that the carrier is eager to maintain—and expand—its presence in Europe, following its entry into the region with its first transatlantic routes to London in 2021 and newly launched service to Paris in summer 2023, followed by its two newest Europe routes: Dublin and Edinburgh, which are slated to take off in spring 2024.