Lufthansa Cargo is taking legal action to overturn the Dutch government’s ban on the German carrier’s transporting flowers from Colombia to Amsterdam Schiphol airport.
The Dutch government ruled in early 2012 that a bilateral treaty between Colombia and the Netherlands restricted traffic rights to carriers registered in the two nations.
The ruling, in response to a complaint by KLM Cargo, underscores how aeropolitics continues to hamper pan-European cargo traffic, as the European Union trails the U.S. in signing “open skies” deals with its trading partners.
Amsterdam Schiphol is a major global hub for the flower trade with direct transportation links to the world’s biggest flower auction market in the nearby town of Aalsmeer.
Since the ban, Lufthansa Cargo has been flying Colombian flowers direct to Frankfurt and trucking them to Amsterdam, a distance of 275 miles.
Lufthansa Cargo claims its flower flight between Bogota and Amsterdam complied with international law. The aircraft flew from the Colombian capital to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and then continued to Amsterdam with a new flight number. The airline maintains the stopover in Puerto Rico transformed the flight into one covered by the EU’s open skies accord the U.S., which allows European and U.S. carriers to fly freely between any two points in each other’s territories.
“We also loaded cargo in Aguadilla and therefore it was – as we are convinced – no technical stop,” said a Lufthansa spokesman. “We hope we will be able to fly these routes again soon.”
KLM didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A court hearing scheduled for this week has been postponed, and no new date has been fixed yet.
Even as the two airlines row over traffic rights, they have been losing market share to sea transport as Colombian and Ecuadorian flower shippers take advantage of historically low
“reefer” freight rates to send their exports in containers. Shipping cut flower by sea takes twice as a long to reach Europe as air transport but costs around 40 percent less.
The price differential is set to narrow in the New Year as Maersk Line, the world’s largest ocean carrier, plans to hike reefer rates by $750 per 20 foot container, an increase of 30 percent on current tariffs.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.