Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport could soon be forced to reimpose a passenger cap because it fears that continuing staff shortages could result in travel chaos over the upcoming May school holidays.
The airport’s staffing woes first came to notice during last year’s Spring getaway when Schiphol almost ground to a complete halt and thousands of passengers were stranded in queues that stretched out of the airport doors for more than a kilometre.
The chaos continued throughout the summer and into the autumn despite Schiphol’s efforts to reduce demand by artificially limiting the number of passengers allowed to use the airport.
Last year, staffing concerns were concentrated at Schiphol’s security checkpoints because the airport operator couldn’t find enough eligible candidates and then struggled to train them quickly enough.
Schiphol managed to solve that issue by offering bumper pay raises and improving working conditions but now the problem lies at independent ground handling companies that employ baggage handlers, aircraft tug drivers, turnaround coordinators and other critical ground-based workers.
In fact, Schiphol estimates that ground handling companies are short of between 300 and 500 staff, and this could prove to be a real issue over the next few months.
The airport operator has now issued an ultimatum – fill the vacancies or risk a new passenger cap.
“We are raising the red flag,” the airport’s chief executive Ruud Sondag said in an interview last week. “We are going to intervene because things are not going well. We have talked to everyone about a solution to this staff shortage and nothing helps,” Sondag continued.
Schiphol had planned to artificially cut passenger numbers by up to 22 per cent until April 2023 but lifted that cap last month after facing pressure from its airline customers, including Dutch flag carrier KLM which had described the caps as “hopeless”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.