The US government has approved complaints by JetBlue Airways and trade group Airlines for America (A4A) against the government of the Netherlands and European Union for alleged violations related to capacity cuts at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is now working to negotiate a solution with Dutch authorities and has ordered Dutch airlines to submit their US flight schedules, according to a 2 November order filed by the DOT.
The US airline industry has asked the DOT to collect the flight schedules as part of a broader regulatory response to the Schiphol capacity cuts.
Airlines for America on 2 November also asked the DOT to respond by deferring further action toward approving a request by German long-haul start-up USC to fly to the USA.
The issue involves the Dutch plan to reduce noise pollution at Schiphol by trimming the number of available take-off and landing slots there starting next summer.
As a result, Airlines for America says US carriers will lose 339 Schiphol slots, with one carrier – JetBlue – losing all access to the airport. JetBlue only recently started flying to Europe as part of a diversification plan, launching Schiphol flights from New York in August and from Boston in September.
The trade group and JetBlue filed complaints in recent months with the DOT, alleging that the capacity cuts violate US and European laws and the US-EU Air Transport Agreement.
“The Department has decided to approve the joint complaint of members of A4A and the complaint of JetBlue,” the DOT says in its 2 November order.
It agrees the capacity cuts violate the air transport agreement and says the Netherlands failed to follow a “balanced approach” as required under a EU regulation. That regulation requires EU members to assess the competitive impact of noise-related airline operating restrictions and to evaluate “less-restrictive alternatives”.
“In our engagements with the Dutch Ministry, the Department has raised significant concerns and objections to the Dutch government’s methodology for implementing its noise-reduction plan,” the DOT says. The plan “constitutes an unjustifiable and unreasonable discriminatory and anticompetitive practice”.
The DOT finds “particularly alarming that JetBlue” will receive no slots next summer and expresses concern about the Netherlands’ plan to further reduce Schiphol capacity in November 2024.
The DOT has agreed to “initiate consultations” with the Netherlands and EU and has given Dutch airlines seven days to submit their US schedules. Affected airlines include KLM, Martinair and TUI Airlines Nederland. The DOT also notes it has been pursuing a diplomatic solution to the spat since January.
“We believe the US and Dutch governments have an obligation under our historic open-skies agreement to ensure that JetBlue is granted continued access at Amsterdam’s only viable airport,” JetBlue tells FlightGlobal. “We look forward to continuing to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that JetBlue can continue to maintain its presence in Amsterdam.”
Separately, A4A on 2 November asked the DOT to defer further action toward approving US flights by German airline USC, calling an approval “premature” considering the Schiphol dispute.
USC in June applied with the DOT for a foreign air carrier permit to fly charters to the USA from the European Union.
The DOT on 1 November approved USC’s permit, though it could be reversed by President Joe Biden, regulatory documents say.
The DOT does not immediately respond to a request for comment.