The number of passengers at Schiphol doubled, FNV warns of chaotic summer

Schiphol handled more than twice as many passengers last year as in 2021. Despite the Covid restrictions at the beginning of 2022 and the logistical problems later in the year, 52.5 million people traveled to, from or via Amsterdam Airport last year. In 2021, there were 25.5 million

Schiphol was still well below the number of passengers in the peak year of 2019 (71.7 million). Popular destinations last year were Curaçao (increase in travelers: 19 percent) and Bonaire (+59 percent). The annual figures that Schiphol published on Monday are preliminary figures. The final results will follow in February.

Of the 52.5 million passengers, 37 percent had a transfer at Schiphol. That was 9.6 million individual travelers: according to the airport’s international counting method, transfer passengers are counted twice, as travelers on arrival and as travelers on departure.

Transfers at Schiphol are under fire. According to critics, including those who live near the airport, transfer passengers only cause (noise) nuisance. They would add little to the Dutch economy. On the other hand, the airlines, especially KLM, argue that they need transfer passengers to fill their flights and maintain their network of connections, especially to intercontinental destinations.

Also read: Major staff shortage or not, the government is not in favor of more labor migration

Restrictions on aircraft movements and passengers

The number of so-called flight movements (takeoffs and landings) was 398,000 last year. This is almost 50 percent more than in 2021. In 2019, Schiphol counted 497,000 flight movements, just below the maximum number of half a million.

Due to noise nuisance from air traffic, the government wants to limit the number of flight movements. Minister Mark Harbers (Infrastructure and Water Management, VVD) wants to reduce the number of permitted movements from 1 November 2023 to 450,000 to 465,000. The minister believes he can enforce this by finally adhering to the rules that apply to aircraft noise at Schiphol. For years, exceeding the noise standards was tolerated.

Harbers would actually limit the number of flight movements a little more to 440,000, but the minister is not yet able to do that. In the fall, he already reported that European rules prevent him from introducing his desired limit of 440,000 flight movements before the end of 2023. Harbers must demonstrate that no other measure than a reduction in the number of flight movements will limit noise nuisance. The maximum of 440,000 should now apply from 1 November 2024.

Meanwhile, Schiphol is still using a maximum number of passengers departing from Amsterdam. Until the end of March, it is about 18 percent below the figures before the pandemic. According to a Schiphol spokesman, the airport wants to publish next week how many (locally departing) passengers are possible from April. It is important for the May holidays. Last year, air traffic was completely out of control from the beginning of May.

Also read: Is Schiphol ready for the upcoming May holiday peak?

Staff shortage

The temporary restrictions have everything to do with the severe shortage of staff at the security companies and the ground handling companies (which take care of baggage, check-in and ramp work).

Schiphol now appears to be well on its way to addressing the shortage of security personnel. The joint recruitment of new people from Schiphol and the companies to which the airport has outsourced personal and baggage checks appears to be successful.

But according to the trade union FNV, the staff shortage at the eight handling companies active at Schiphol is still very high. According to Joost van Doesburg, campaign manager FNV Schiphol, the eight handlers together count “many hundreds of vacancies” of approximately three thousand employees. This primarily concerns employees in the baggage cellars, check-in staff and people who work around the aircraft on the apron.

The handling staff expects another tough summer with many disruptions

Van Doesburg calls on the airlines to do more about the high workload. “The staff in handling sees another hard summer with many disturbances on the way,” writes FNV in an urgent letter to the companies on Monday. “The staffing shortage is enormous, and employees are fleeing the excessively high workload and wages just above the legal minimum.”

In contrast to the on-call companies (which Schiphol itself hires), the ground handling companies are hired by the airlines. As far as Van Doesburg is concerned, Schiphol should play a more guiding role. The Ministry of Infrastructure is investigating how the relatively large number of eight handling companies at Schiphol can be limited in order to reduce the deadly competition.

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