Travel industry: expect longer queues in the summer

The travel sector fears that the peak load at Schiphol last weekend was just a foretaste of what the Dutch holidaymaker can expect this summer. Tour operators expect even larger crowds for the summer holidays, but say they can mean little as long as Schiphol does not have the situation with its staff in order.

Last weekend, holidaymakers stood in line for hours at Amsterdam Airport – which stretched beyond the departure hall. The fire department handed out bottles of water to the waiting families with their suitcases. A number of planes departed later and a few missed their planes. The long queues were due to staff shortages at Schiphol, especially in the area of ​​baggage handling and passenger control.

It was not that the tour operators did not see the crowds coming, says Frank Oostdam, director of the travel agencies’ umbrella organization ANVR. “We already knew in January how busy it would be during the May holidays. Schiphol should have arranged this on time, and due to planning errors it did not happen. ” In the same way, he could already see this summer that things were going wrong. After many family vacations have been canceled in the last two summers due to the corona crisis, many want to make amends for their missed travels this summer. Oostdam: “According to our first estimate, we will reach the number of passengers in 2019 again. And that’s more than in the May holidays. We take longer queues into account if nothing changes. ” In 2019, the last full year before the corona pandemic, the airport saw nearly 72 million passengers arrive or depart, of which 13.5 million in July and August.

Around the table

This summer, therefore, even more passengers are expected than last weekend, albeit for a longer period. Still, the big question is whether Schiphol will be ready in time. Tour operators have announced that they want to meet with the Schiphol board next week as soon as the worst is over. The airport management is asked how they want to prevent it from getting so busy again for the summer. A quick fix does not seem to be available; Several sectors are currently experiencing significant staff shortages. The travel organizations TUI, Corendon, Sunweb and Vakantiediscounter state that they want to contribute ideas, but all state that the help options they have available as travel organizations are limited. Aside from encouraging travelers to check in online and get to the airport on time, there is not much the tour operators can do.

Flights from other airports may also be limited. For TUI flying its own plane, Brussels or Rotterdam-The Hague Airport could be an alternative, a spokesman said. “But even there we are tied to a limited number of slots [tijdsloten voor vertrekken en landen], so we can not fall back on it indefinitely. The essence of this remains the same: Schiphol must solve this problem. They offer their service – which they pay dearly for – and must therefore also deliver. There are no more people flying than in other years, and the airport is made for that kind of passenger volume. ”

In the talks with the airport, even more points will be discussed, including communication from Schiphol. That it left something to be desired was clear on Saturday 23 April, when a wildcat strike by KLM’s ground staff meant that there would be no more luggage for the KLM aircraft. 110 flights were canceled that day. Schiphol urged people not to come to the airport anymore – to the dismay of tour operators like TUI and Corendon. “We just asked: come to Schiphol, because we have our own baggage handling,” the TUI spokesman said. “Our plane has just left.”

Call centers maxed out

What also did not help, the operators say, was Schiphol’s attempt to ban 5,800 passengers last weekend by asking the airlines to cancel flights. Holidaymakers called worried if their plane would depart. “Fortunately, our partner airlines Vueling and Transavia refused to comply, so in the end everyone came to the holiday destination,” said a spokesman for Sunweb – which does not own any aircraft and is dependent on airlines. An advantage of this is that Sunweb was able to shop quickly over the weekend: “We have used our call centers to the maximum to inform as many customers as possible. In this way, even two planes could depart via Rotterdam-The Hague Airport, because we caught everyone on time. ”

In addition to the annoying waiting time for holidaymakers, ANVR director Frank Oostdam fears a more structural problem for his sector if the situation at the airport does not improve. “All this hassle makes Schiphol’s image flake off, and it can make people hesitate to book travel. As a sector, we had a wonderful revival after the corona crisis. People want to go abroad in droves, so it’s a shame to see them start their holiday like this. ”

Although there is great annoyance in the travel industry, which would like to run too full again after two lean corona years, Oostdam emphasizes that constructive talks will be held with the Schiphol management. “We have a strong relationship with Schiphol. As in any good marriage, you can be angry with each other, but you can not get angry. It’s not productive either. ”

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