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Dutch authorities scramble to resolve row with Russia over landing slots

Dutch aviation officials are looking for an amicable solution to a row with Russia over landing slots at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

According to the Dutch Airline Pilots Association, Moscow has indicated they would close Russian air space to Dutch aircrafts after the reduction of landing slots available to Russian freight carrier AirBridgeCargo at Europe’s third-busiest airport following Schiphol’s half-yearly reallocation last week.

Should the move push through, it would mainly impact Air France subsidiary KLM, the former Dutch flag carrier and the only Dutch airline that flies over Russia.

The Dutch transport ministry is currently “in talks with several parties over the availability of slots for freight traffic at Schiphol,” said spokesman Roel Vincken.

On the other hand, a representative for the Russian transport ministry bared that KLM and AirBridgeCargo were discussing the possibility of KLM giving up some of its slots as part of a potential resolution to the impasse.

Relations between Russia and the Netherlands has been edgy since the tragic 2014 downing of Malaysia passenger flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which slew 298 people, most of them Dutch.

AirBridgeCargo’s Dutch boss Henk-Jan van Keulen revealed that they had been forced to reroute nearly half of its traffic through Liege, Belgium, using trucks, because of the reallocation of slots at Schiphol.

Van Keulen added that financial damages were tough to estimate, as they are lowered by lower fees at Liege and are being partly borne by the various freight-forwarding companies it works with.

Airline Pilots Association Spokesman Joost van Doesburg said that they received an appeal from KLM to add an extra pilot to all flights traveling to Asia, as they will have to re-route beginning on Saturday.

Should Russia follow through on the ban, hours of travel time will be put on to Asian flights.

“It’s only a threat but you have to prepare. Russia does this sometimes when it feels countries aren’t giving appropriate attention to a complaint,” Van Doesburg remarked.

Airport Coordination Netherlands, the organization tasked with allocating slots at Schiphol, said AirBridgeCargo’s slots had been slashed for failure to fully employ its existing slots, and it did not have the power to grant any additional slots because of a cap imposed at the airport.

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