Is Schiphol ready for larger crowds during the May holidays? Five questions and answers

Today it will be announced whether Schiphol will once again allow tens of thousands of passengers to enter the departure halls without restrictions from the end of March. Since last summer, there have been restrictions at the airport on the number of departing travelers to prevent the terminals becoming overcrowded and flights being missed. NH News takes a shot ahead and answers five questions about the ongoing staff shortage, the suitcase chaos and perhaps another carefree May holiday.

Schiphol’s B pier – NH News / Doron Sajet

Last year it was the nightmare for millions of passengers traveling via Schiphol: a sweltering departure hall, fights at security, hours of zigzagging in endless queues that were largely led outside under shabby tents, and then still missing your plane. That nightmare became reality for many: They saw their holiday go up in smoke because of the mess because Schiphol failed to put an end to the chaos.

What happens?

The chaos started last year on the first day of the May holidays at the end of April. A group of disgruntled KLM baggage handlers stopped working for hours. It was a wild strike without any announcement, so no one was prepared for it. The baggage handlers were angry about the outsourcing of part of their work to competitor Viggo due to a lack of staff at KLM. The strike caused long delays, numerous cancellations and overcrowded terminals.

And that set the tone. It just takes something deviant at Schiphol for the consequences to become unmanageable. The baggage handlers eventually returned to work, but it soon became clear that staff shortages in many departments would lead to even more chaos.

Where was the staff shortage greatest?

At the security check in Schiphol’s departure halls. Staff were underpaid, underappreciated and saddled with inhumane schedules and impatient, sometimes aggressive passengers. After the corona crisis, the security work at Schiphol proved not to be worth the effort for many job seekers, and the employees who were there called in sick or gave up. Meanwhile, security guards have made significant progress. This was preceded by months of negotiations between Schiphol and the unions.

Has the staff shortage been resolved?

None. In December, Schiphol and the security companies managed to employ 170 new security guards, with the new, much better working conditions. In total, the interim director of Schiphol, Ruud Sondag, wants to recruit 800 extra security guards.

Whether that number has been reached, or whether enough new security guards have been hired for a carefree May holiday, will be announced this afternoon. Then it will also be seen whether the brakes on the number of departing travelers will be released. Last month, Sondag indicated that he was very confident that the May break would go smoothly without restrictions.

Do I no longer have to worry about chaos and missing my flight?

As mentioned, only one thing has to happen, such as a fault in the baggage system, defective gates at passport control, a flu or corona outbreak among the staff or a wild strike, and Schiphol is in a heap. In addition, there is still a shortage of manpower in many departments, for example in the handling companies that load and unload the planes. last year, that shortage resulted in months of chaos of stray suitcases in arrivals halls.

After arrival, you may wait for your luggage for hours, or your suitcases may be left behind at Schiphol because there is no one to load them onto the plane. The trade union FNV last week called on the airlines to dig deep into their pockets for more pay for handling staff. The representative of the companies, Barin, indicated only that he would discuss it with his members.

So be at Schiphol at least four hours in advance, right?

Fortunately, this has not been the case in recent months. There have also hardly been long queues for the security check. Now travelers must be present two hours in advance for a European flight and three hours for an intercontinental journey.

But this is primarily due to the restrictions that are still in place: Schiphol limits the number of departing travelers each day. The tents for waiting in the open are also still there. Only when they are gone will we know whether Schiphol has managed to get things in order.

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