Chaos at Schiphol: queues, missed flights, and millions of angry passengers

Edition 20June 2017, by Phoebe Dodds

Amsterdam is known as a must-see destination to visit before you die, but the flip side of this for residents, however, is an increasingly crowded city. This is evident from the moment Amsterdammers returning home touch down at Schiphol: in recent months, queues at the airport, both for immigration and security checks, have become monstrous. The airport is ill-equipped to handle this increase is passengers, and is now facing legal action from people who have missed their flights due to the sometimes three-hour long check-in and security queues.

Schiphol has always been a busy airport due to its central location within Europe, and hundreds of direct flights to destinations around the world. In the past 30 years, the airport has won almost 200 awards, receiving both European and global recognition. In recent years, however, it has seen an unprecedented number of passengers pass through, both as a first or final destination, or as a stop-over for those in transit, and it has become unable to cope. In 2015, an average of 111 passengers passed through Schiphol every minute, and April 2017 saw 1,000,000 more passengers than in the same month in 2016. These figures look set to increase further, but the airport has yet to fully adjust its staff numbers accordingly. While a spokesperson for Schiphol said that they would bring in extra staff members to reduce the queues at the security checks during especially busy periods, travellers are still landing at the airport to find almost hour-long queues for immigration.

Outbound travellers are currently required to queue at three different stages of their journey out of Amsterdam: first to check in and drop off luggage, then to clear security, and finally for passport control. Airlines including KLM have started to respond to the airport chaos, advising passengers to arrive at Schiphol three hours before their flight takes off. KLM in particular – as the national Dutch carrier – has borne the brunt of the situation, losing millions of Euros as a direct result of the delays. With the airline considering taking legal action against Schiphol, the airport’s CEO, Job Nijhuis is in the direct line of fire, with certain critics demanding that he return his 2016 bonus of €300,000, and others calling for him to lose his job.

The tensions are high as the aviation sector plays an important part in the Dutch economy , if foreigners associate Schiphol with queues so long that they might miss their flight unless they arrive over three hours early, they may be less likely to book a connection through the airport and may even choose a different, more practical location for a city break. Ensuring that Schiphol is running smoothly and that passengers experience a stressfree journey is therefore paramount, and means that various meetings are being held with the airport management and the CEO of KLM, Pieter Elbers, to reach a solution for the chaos. With the school summer holidays coming up, Schiphol will face soon face one of the busiest times of the year.

How will it cope? Job Nijhuis has said that in addition to the increase in staff at the security checks, the airport will install a number of extra security lanes in one of the most affected areas: Departure Hall 2. With the increase in passengers showing no signs of relenting, it is hoped that these measures will make the queues manageable again, for the sake of visitors and travelling locals alike.