Schiphol: Four-hour security lines expected this summer
Airlines KLM, Corendon and TUIfly are expected to call on their passengers to arrive at Schiphol airport as much as four hours before their flight, instead of the standard two or three hours, because of staff shortages in the Marechaussee, the military policing force responsible for security at the airport. Long queues and delays are expected at the entrance to the secured areas of the airport, and at the passport controls for those leaving the Schengen Area.
"We urgently need a short-term solution. Otherwise we cannot guarantee that the summer will go well," Schiphol CEO Jos Nijhuis told the Telegraaf. He hopes that the government will make more money available for extra Marechaussee officers in its upcoming report.
The capacity problems with the Marechaussee are linked to the need to tackle additional security concerns outside and away from the airport, and a diversion of personnel to the Netherlands terrestrial borders, where officers are trying to tackle human trafficking linked to the ongoing refugee crisis, Nijhuis speculated.
The new approach from Marechaussee officers began less than a year after Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated he was opposed to increasing the Marechaussee budget. New centralized baggage screening procedures also opened up at Schiphol, which previously checked carry-on luggage at the gates prior to boarding. Labour union FNV said the centralization led to privatizing much of the security at the airport, at staffing levels of 20 to 25 percent lower than in the past. Justice Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff denied that the cuts were so severe, asserting it was closer to a ten percent drop.
The busy Easter travel season saw Schiphol dealing with five percent more passengers than last year, Nijhuis added. A comfortable experience cannot be guaranteed when the airport sometimes sees 200 thousand passengers per day, and all signs point to the potential of an even busier summer season.
The airlines said in Dutch newspaper the Telegraaf that there is a real risk that from May, travelers who arrive at Schiphol too late will miss their flights. "We have been dealing for years with attacks. That is no reason for staff shortages at the border control," said Corendon CEO Steven van der Heijden. He was particularly critical of the situation, considering fees are added to airline tickets to cover the cost of airport security.
KLM and TUIfly both pressed for a quick solution to the impending problem. A KLM representative even suggested it impairs the airline's ability to use Schiphol as a hub if security delays are severe.
A spokesperson for the cash-strapped Ministry of Security and Justice told the newspaper that the Ministry is in a "constructive dialogue with all people". The spokesperson could not say what measures will be taken or when they will be implemented, only that they are trying to "jointly address the border issue at Schiphol".