Slot scarcity at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol explained:

Just over two years ago, the notion that the handler should be the ‘director’ of import freight sparked the idea of the Milkrun.

Reason for slot scarcity

Air Traffic Movement (ATM) capacity at AMS is agreed in ‘Covenants on the future development of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’ i.e. the Alders Platform (2008); the maximum has been set on 500,000 ATM movements until 2020. According to this Platform, this balances the requirements of aviation growth at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, noise reduction and local environmental quality in the medium term. Parties that are represented in the Alders Platform are the State (the ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), aviation parties (Schiphol Group, Air Traffic Control the Netherlands, BARIN and KLM), a number of regional and local authorities (the provinces of North-Holland and South-Holland, the municipalities of Haarlemmermeer, Amstelveen, Uitgeest, and Amsterdam, for example), and residents living in the vicinity of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The agreement, including this ATM maximum, has been adopted by the government.

In Schiphol history, this is the first time we experience slot capacity constraints. For the years to come Schiphol will adhere to the Alders Agreement made in 2008 (i.e. we will not exceed the 500k ATM maximum until 2020). Regarding growth after 2020, Schiphol Group will have to negotiate again with its stakeholders. We expect to continue growth after 2020.

The current ATM situation

Over the calendar year of 2016 AMS has accommodated 479,000 ATMs. The first half year of 2017 showed a 4.9 per cent growth in ATMs. The first half year also showed a cargo volume growth of 8.7 per cent compared to last year and this is a continuation of the last four months of 2016. At the passenger side, we have already (2015 onwards) seen such growth numbers for a longer period of time, both in passengers (close to 10 per cent) as well as in ATMs. Schiphol Group is of course pleased with these growth figures. However, this also comes with its challenges and limitations, including slots scarcity. Due to this, AMS will reach the maximum of 500,000 slots already this year.

Who is responsible for slot allocation at AMS?

Slots in the Netherlands are regulated in IATA and EU rules. The Slot Coordinator (ACNL) is, in the Netherlands, responsible for executing these rules. As stated in the IATA/EU regulation, Schiphol Group has no role in the slot allocation process. This is no different to other airports: airline and ACNL (with the IATA/EU rules in hand) agree on slots. Usually, slots applications are done by airline network planners. The calendar and the slot conferences are initiated by IATA.

ACNL has introduced weekly consultation hours to cater to airline questions regarding slot application and slot monitoring. Airlines will be able to speak directly with a slot coordinator. The answers provided are for information purposes only. Consultation hours are every Wednesday between 14:00 to 16:00 (AMS LT). Outside the office hours the slot coordinator, can be reached for general questions by sending an email to

Effect on full freighter operations at AMS

Some full freighter operations are difficult to fit into slots. The major issue for full freighter operations is the difficulty to fly according to a fixed on time schedule. According to IATA and EU regulations, in order to retain their historical rights to slots, airlines need to fly 80 per cent of their slots according to the requested flight schedule. This requirement proves to be challenging for some full freighter operators. The nature of the air cargo industry is – compared to the passenger industry-based on different needs, for example as the launch of new high-tech products, flower seasons and the recent rise and seasonality of e-commerce), and unlike the passenger market -which is a highly regular market dominated by return flights- cargo carriers connect cargo flows, which are one-way flights.

Stable but some threats

With the capacity constraints at AMS, we expect the number of full freighter slots to remain relatively stable in comparison to the unconstrained situation. In contrast with some other large cargo airports, Schiphol is a full-freighter hub, and has the largest number of freighter operators in Europe. However, capacity constraints pose a threat to those full freighter operators that do not have historical slots or ‘lease’ slots from other carriers. Moreover, there will be less room for incidental full-freighter operations, while scheduled operators are expected to sustain – and expand if possible – their current operations.

How big is this threat? It remains to be seen. We have noticed that for the coming IATA winter season we had (in May 2017) a waiting list of 27,000 slots (both passenger and full freight request). Schiphol Cargo is – at this moment in time – unable to give specific answers regarding which amount of the these slots, including full freight slots, will be granted in the end: we – just as every airline – keep a close eye on the publications of ACNL at their website It is not uncommon that airlines hand back their slots due to mismatches in their schedule. We expect more clarity on this within the next week.

At this time, we have seen a decrease of the waiting list of 27,000 slots request to approximately 10,000 slots but many of them are full-freighter slots. Approximately 1,300 slots have been handed back. At Schiphol Group we did a forecast in the beginning of August. We expect for the calendar year 2018 a decrease (compared to the calendar year of 2017) of 10.5 per cent in full freighter ATMs. We do not know what the impact will be in terms of volume.

Air Cargo the Netherlands (‘ACN’) requests for ‘local rule’

The Dutch airfreight community association ACN, has asked the Airport Slot Coordination Committee meeting held on August 31st, for a local rule to – should there be a pool of non-used ATMs – give a form of preference to (request for slots for) full-freighter operations. At this moment, the request for a local rule is still under discussion: not clear yet whether the Airport Slot Coordination Committee will adopt such.