JetBlue may be fighting the Biden Administration in court to buy Spirit, but this week the government helped JetBlue’s Amsterdam efforts by fighting alongside them.
Dutch Government Cancels JetBlue Flights to Amsterdam
This week, the Dutch government announced which flights would be affected by a required reduction of flights at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The green initiative requires a reduction from 500,000 flights annually to 452,500, just shy of a 10% reduction. Like layoffs at major companies, the approach from the Dutch airport authority has been to cancel some routes by a last-in, first-out approach. That includes the few slots for Summer 2024 JetBlue intended to operate from New York John F Kennedy International Airport.
This model favors historical flights and protects KLM the most, though, by any measure, it is the most adversely affected as it holds the most slots at its Amsterdam hub.
As one might expect, JetBlue, is upset. The airline fought for the right to fly to Amsterdam in the first place, has marketed the trips, and continues to build its European market. This setback was another blow in what has been a tough couple of months for the carrier this week. The Biden Administration has challenged the airline’s bid to buy Spirit and while JetBlue anticipated a settlement, it has instead gone to trial. The airline also reported $150MM in losses in the last quarter in the same week.
JetBlue CEO, Robin Hayes, was understandably outraged this week that the Dutch authorities canceled his airline’s light schedule and new flights. As Matthew covered earlier this week,
“If the Dutch Government is allowed to effectively expel new entrant JetBlue from AMS without facing any consequential and proportional countermeasures from the Department, other governments may decide to follow suit.”
Surprisingly, the US government agreed with JetBlue and industry lobby group, A4A.
“We find that the implementation of the Government of the Netherlands’ Phase 1 noise reduction plan at AMS constitutes an unjustifiable and unreasonable discriminatory and anticompetitive practice, and we further find that the Government of the Netherlands has imposed an unjustifiable and unreasonable restriction on access of an air carrier to the U.S.-Amsterdam market,” the DOT wrote in its decision.
“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.” – Paddle Your Own Kanoo
As Matthew cited, fellow Boarding Area writer, Ben Schlappig at OneMileAtATime.com, didn’t necessarily find that the government should be involved. I side with Matthew and JetBlue, though I was shocked to see that the Administration was this sharp in its rhetoric.
I’m not privy to the approach and consideration that the Dutch government took in its decision-making process. However, it seems a relatively broad brush. Many have pointed out that the “noise abatement” which is also tied into green initiatives, doesn’t take into consideration the efficiency of the aircraft flying the routes, nor the noise associated therein. To my knowledge, JetBlue wasn’t offered alternative slots that allowed for appeasement of these concerns. JetBlue’s equipment on the route, an Airbus A321-NEO is among the most efficient across the Atlantic, is brand new, and as quiet as possible with a jet-powered aircraft.
Perhaps more practical approaches are in order. At JFK alone, KLM and its joint venture partner, Delta Air Lines, operate the following:
- A330-900-NEO (codeshare with Delta)
- A330-300 (codeshare with Delta)
That’s a lot of lift and both carriers have larger aircraft that could consolidate the four daily flights to three which would reduce emissions, and eliminate a slot pair. That singular change would allow JetBlue to continue flying the route and keep healthy competition. KLM offers (6) daily flights to London Heathrow, and another (2) to London City. There is room on the Heathrow flights to combine two of them with a larger aircraft over a 737-800 and an Embraer 195.
While KLM will have to cut back on more than 3% of its flying to comply, the newer and more efficient A350-1000 will replace older A330s and 777-200s as they arrive. This will reduce emissions and increase efficiency naturally.
The Dutch government’s approach to reducing emissions and sound at Amsterdam Schiphol is a noble one, but execution doesn’t appear to involve a thoughtful approach that takes into account the entirety of the goal, and those affected to achieve it. As the US DOT pointed out, it may not have gone through the proper process in accordance with OpenSkies and could, in fact, be in violation of the agreement.
What do you think? Are you surprised the Biden Administration stepped in this week for JetBlue? Do you think the Dutch Government’s process is the right way to determine which flights get cut?