Air Serbia Considers Legal Action Over Schiphol Limits

The near-term ceiling on passenger numbers at AMS will hurt business, the Serbian flag carrier maintains.

Credit: Nigel Howarth/Aviation Week Network

Air Serbia is protesting capacity restrictions at Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), saying the caps are causing it “great financial and reputational damage” by forcing it to limit the number of passengers it can carry between AMS and Belgrade (BEG), its home hub.

The airline is threatening legal action against the airport. Air Serbia operates 9X-weekly flights on the BEG-AMS route, but indicated it has been directed by AMS to lower capacity on those flights effective immediately.  

Schiphol has been particularly badly hit by staff shortages in recent weeks, notably in the security clearance area. This has led to extra-long queues and unusually high numbers of passengers missing flights. In response, the airport has imposed daily capacity limits on departing passengers throughout July and into early August.  

The Schiphol authorities have said the airport can handle a maximum of 67,500 daily outgoing passengers in July and 73,000 in August. Without these restrictions, the number of departing passengers in July would exceed security clearance capacity by up to 13,500 per day.   

That number drops to 1,000 per day for the first week in August and, thereafter, the expected number of departing passengers should be in balance with the numbers of available security personnel, the airport said.  

AMS executives have apologized for the disruption to airlines. “We are taking this measure with an unbelievably heavy heart,” CEO Dick Benschop said in late June, adding: “Setting a limit now means that the large majority of travelers will be able to travel from Schiphol in a safe and responsible way.”

Schiphol said it held “intensive consultations” with airlines and the independent Netherlands slot coordinator (ACNL) regarding the capacity constraints. The slot coordinator then held talks with airlines regarding reducing the number of passengers they could fly from the airport.   

Air Serbia said it had received “a unilateral request from Schiphol Airport … to reduce the number of seats on offer on flights from Amsterdam to Belgrade from Thursday July 7 until the end of July.”  

The airline added that “such a move is not based on a relationship of mutual respect and appreciation, bearing in mind that the Serbian national company has been flying continuously on that route for over 50 years and that it was the only carrier that maintained traffic between Belgrade and Amsterdam for a long period during the coronavirus pandemic. The company will send a letter to Schiphol Airport with a request to reconsider the demand and to give it up, and legal possibilities are currently being examined to request compensation for the damage caused to Air Serbia by that unilateral decision.”