Schiphol stalls on new bizav terminal

 - March 16, 2007, 9:58 AM

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has shelved long-standing plans to build a new business aviation terminal on the east side of the Dutch gateway. According to an airport spokeswoman, the development has been postponed due to financial constraints but is expected to be resumed before the end of this year.

Local FBOs have been irked by the decision not to build the new 7,850-sq-ft facility, which has been promised for at least the past two years. The Amsterdam Jet Center (AJC) has indicated that it now does not realistically expect the project to resume this year, or at least not in time to have it completed this year.

AJC managing director Aad Ruijgrok told AIN that he had offered to build the new terminal himself and then give it back to the airport after a number of years. This offer was refused by Schiphol, which insists that all new airport facilities have to be built and owned by its real-estate division. Ruijgrok has now decided to close Amsterdam Jet Center until a new business aviation terminal is built at Schiphol.

Ruijgrok, who also owns the Rotterdam Jet Center at the airport serving the Netherlands’ second-largest city, has already signed an option on 3,200 sq ft of space in Amsterdam’s proposed new business aviation terminal. The existing business aviation facility on the east side of Schiphol is antiquated and has not been substantially remodeled for years because construction of the new terminal has been pending. It is also proving to be uneconomical to maintain.

KLM General Aviation manager Maurice van der Heijden said his company is now exploring an alternative plan that would see new handling facilities added to a pair of hangars owned by a private firm called Schiphol Executive Center. KLM is now trying to persuade several Schiphol-based executive charter operators to go along with this plan in a bid to persuade the airport to allow this private development.

The Amsterdam FBOs are also concerned about moves by the airport to force larger business aircraft to be handled at Schiphol’s main terminal. AJC complained that this would deprive it of much-needed revenue at a time when it is already struggling to cover costs.

The Schiphol spokeswoman said that the airport requires only aircraft carrying more than 19 passengers to use the main terminal and that this rule took effect on February 1. She insisted that it would not apply to aircraft that have seats for more than 19 passengers but are not actually carrying this many.

According to KLM General Aviation, Schiphol’s new policy deviates from an established agreement that general aviation traffic would be defined as any flight for which individual passenger tickets or cargo loads cannot be purchased. Van der Heijden explained that this distinction had recently been blurred by some Dutch charter operators that allowed passengers to buy individual tickets. He said his company does not object to airline-class traffic being moved to Schiphol’s main terminal, but stressed that this would not be appropriate for bona fide business aviation movements, including larger corporate transports operated by automobile manufacturers such as Jaguar and professional soccer teams.

Meanwhile, KLM General Aviation is planning to offer executive handling at Rotterdam Airport. Van der Heijden said that the Dutch flag carrier’s top management has decided to invest in its FBO subsidiary despite the fact that it is not a core business. He said that this strategy will not be changed following the expected merger between KLM and Air France.