JetBlue Airways alleges that the Netherlands has violated the terms of the open-skies agreement between the U.S. and European Union after repeatedly denying the airline’s requests to serve Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Under the agreement, airlines can operate an unlimited number of flights between the U.S. and EU as long as they can secure the necessary airport landing and takeoff rights — known as “slots” — on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. JetBlue, which first launched flights to Europe in 2021, said it has made at least three applications for slots at Schiphol since September, all of which have been denied, to begin two daily flights to Amsterdam — one from Boston and one from New York’s JFK airport — this summer.
“The Dutch government’s conduct violates the [open-skies] agreement and constitutes an ‘unjustifiable or unreasonable discriminatory or anticompetitive practice’ and ‘imposes an unjustifiable or unreasonable restriction’ on JetBlue’s access to U.S.-AMS markets,” JetBlue said in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday.
The complaint is a highly unusual method to gain international airport access, and one used only as a last resort by an airline.
JetBlue claimed that its requests, which included seeking unused slots previously used by Aeroflot and bankrupt Flybe, were denied due to the Dutch government’s controversial policy to reduce noise and carbon emissions at Schiphol. This effort would reduce the maximum number of flights allowed at the airport to 440,000 annually from 500,000 currently. The policy has also raised concerns at KLM.
Schiphol also implemented passenger caps this past summer due to understaffing, particularly of security functions. Those caps will end at the end of March.
The DOT will likely begin evaluating JetBlue’s complaint, first determining if it has merit before investigating whether the Netherlands have violated the open-skies agreement. It is unlikely to result in new JetBlue flights to Amsterdam this summer, but could facilitate the airline gaining access to Schiphol in the coming years.