Chaotic scenes at Schiphol: 450 flights delayed, 75 flights cancelled amid staff shortage
Staff shortages at Schiphol Airport’s security checkpoints caused hours-long lines on Monday, affecting thousands of airline passengers traveling through the second busiest airport in the European Union. Hundreds of flights were facing delays ranging in duration from a few minutes to several hours, and dozens of flights were cancelled.
A Schiphol spokesperson said told NL Times, “Currently it is indeed a busy day at the airport. That’s mainly because there was less security staff available than planned.” He added that the airport was trying to provide water, and to make it possible for people to use a bathroom if they needed to step out of line.
Markus Bäcklund, a passenger attempting to navigate the situation to fly from Amsterdam to Paris, needed 4 hours and 15 minutes to get to his gate from the moment he arrived at Schiphol. He told NL Times that the situation had the appearance of “almost the same chaos” as one month ago, when KLM ground crew workers called a wildcat strike at the start of the May vacation period. During that incident, passengers were forced to queue up in lines that spanned multiple terminals just to reach baggage drop-off desks, check-in counters, and security lanes.
“Now, I have no idea why there are ridiculous lines again,” Bäcklund said on Monday. He added that passengers at the airport were being treated “like cattle.”
With people waiting in line for hours, some passengers have been unable to reach their gates before the final boarding call. “When many of the passengers are still waiting in line, an airline may decide to delay a flight so more people can get on the flight,” the airport spokesperson said. He was not able to say if special accommodations were being made for people with disabilities, pregnant women, elderly people, or passengers with small children. He suggested that passengers use the airport’s website for the most current information about flight status.
Some 297 departures were delayed since the start of airport operations on Monday, according to an inspection of the website at 3:50 p.m. Another 152 arrivals were also running behind schedule. Airlines cancelled 35 departures and 40 arrivals, with gate changes also announced for many other flights. Schiphol’s own monitoring service referred to Monday as a peak day for departures, and also a busy day for arrivals.
It was not yet clear to what extent the staff shortage caused the disruption in flight operations, the spokesperson said. He confirmed that if flights are unable to depart on schedule, this could limit the number of available gates, thus further impacting arriving flights.
“The heart of Europe looks like a third world country,” said Alexandre, another passenger. He remarked that it seemed like there was only one open security screening desk for thousands of passengers standing in line.
European air traffic control center Eurocontrol did not make mention of any meddlesome weather patterns causing problems in the airspace around Schiphol in its afternoon tactical updates. An “unstable air mass” was causing problems for air traffic in Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland, with the Maastricht area also subject to delays, Eurocontrol said in an update.