The cancellation of holiday flights at busy Schiphol is fast approaching

The moment when planes will be canceled en masse at Schiphol to prevent large crowds is fast approaching. The airport is not able to solve the staff problems, long queues and chaos.

Herman Stil

Schiphol can now add aggression to the busy chaos. On Sunday evening, a passenger riot broke out at the security checkpoint in Departure Hall 1, when the security staff – despite the long queues – closed a number of shutters in the security ranks because their guard was over.

People who had been waiting for hours threatened to storm the security checkpoint. “At one point, a very dangerous situation arose with the safety of employees and passengers at risk,” the head of the security company CTSN, which is responsible for checking passengers and cabin baggage, said in a message to its staff. ‘There was also a very high risk of mass migrants.’

The latter means that passengers could have proceeded to the plane without being checked. Eventually, military personnel from the Marechaussee had to be brought in to restore order.

Shameful display

“It’s an embarrassing display,” said Frank Oostdam, chairman of the travel industry association ANVR. “I understand the frustration, dissatisfaction and anger of these people. Although it would be going too far to give it a shot at security guards who are there. This does not change the fact that this pressure is unacceptable. Schiphol has been saying for weeks that “A solution is being worked on, but it has not succeeded. 80 percent of the new security guards who are needed have not even been found yet. I fear that it will be very busy until the summer holidays, especially on the weekends.”

The trade union FNV, which for years has warned of problems at Schiphol due to staff shortages, does not want this to happen. The union threatens strikes and actions from next month if Schiphol does not take appropriate action quickly.

“We once again had lengthy talks with the airport and the companies involved on Monday to make the work at Schiphol attractive again,” said union director Joost van Doesburg. “It still has not yielded any results.” Bonds and the airport will continue to speak on Wednesday.

The staff is falling over

The problems are much bigger than in security alone. The handling of passengers – at check-in counters and gates – as well as their checked baggage also breaks down regularly because there is a shortage of platform staff, especially temps. Already in early May, it resulted in a wildcat strike among KLM employees.

‘It is completely out of control. Employees are literally falling over. “On Monday, images circulated on social media of a fainted security guard.” Working at Schiphol should really become more attractive, “Van Doesburg says. now even causing riots. ”

FNV reiterates its demand that Schiphol reduce the number of flights to the level achievable with the current number of employees. According to the union, a limit of one thousand flights a day seems to be the maximum achievable. It is certainly a third smaller than the airport treats on the busiest days. “We all want a good and safe holiday,” says Van Doesburg, “but a nice and safe holiday starts at the airport. It is not possible now.”


Airlines, especially KLM, and travel agencies are strongly opposed to such an intervention. They have already sold tickets and package tours for flights that would then be at stake. “I have always had confidence that this problem would be solved with extra measures,” said President Marnix Fruitema of Barin, the airlines’ club.

“It is fair to say that what has happened now undermines that confidence. We are also surprised by the new audience this week, not even during a peak period. But it is especially ominous that Schiphol was also surprised. That seems to be happening to them now. They are apparently still not getting any signals that there is a shortage of staff. The only solution is to get as many people in as possible. It should not go in the direction of canceling flights. That’s the easy way out. That can not mean that Schiphol avoids real solutions. ”

But the massive cancellation of flights is still on the table, says Oostdam from ANVR. “It’s a no-go for us. Cancel flights and leave passengers stranded; it should not get any more crazy.” He fears that not much can be done about such a measure. “If Schiphol continues to do so, there is probably little we can do about it as long as they depend on security. It’s obviously legal.

Schiphol can not cancel flights itself, because it has to knock on the door of the independent coordinator who manages and issues take-off and landing rights (‘slots’) in the Netherlands. It does so on instructions from the government.

But Aviation Minister Mark Harbers (I&W) does not intend to intervene immediately and believes that Schiphol himself must solve the problems. “Schiphol will have to work to ensure that the May holiday situation does not recur during the summer,” he wrote to the House of Representatives. “The operational management of passenger flows is largely the responsibility of Schiphol and the airlines.”

Constructive conversation

According to him, this also applies to the plans to cancel flights or move them to other airports. “I am in regular contact with Schiphol and have asked the airport to inform me on an ongoing basis about the elaboration of the above and other measures that are being taken to ensure that the crowds are manageable during the summer period.”

“We understand that travelers want to travel and want to reach their plane,” Schiphol replies. “We are doing everything we can to make this possible with our partners. We are currently in a constructive discussion with FNV on terms of employment. An approach this summer is also being discussed with the airlines. Our common goal is to reach an agreement within 1 June. ”

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