Schiphol long lines “a new low” says Minister; “Draconian measures” needed, says union
The long lines at Schiphol Airport are "a new low after everything we have seen in recent months, "Infrastructure Minister Mark Harbers told reporters on Tuesday. The airport must do everything it can to prevent this from happening again, he said. However, to resolve the long lines, “draconian measures” may be needed, warned one of the airport’s largest labor unions.
"It is all hands on deck for Schiphol this week," the infrastructure minister said to the media. There were extremely long queues at the airport on Monday due to a shortage of security guards, sometimes stretching over three hours long, and many people missed their flight that day. The problem was so bad that by the afternoon, Schiphol wound up asking airlines to cancel flights to help relieve the situation.
"We really have to try to prevent this with all our might," said Harbers.
It was busy at Schiphol again on Tuesday morning, but the lines were not as long as the previous day. Passengers were still standing in line outside of Departures 1, waiting to enter the area, while lines for Departures 3 often extended outdoors. Dozens, if not hundreds, of flights are facing delays, and 52 flights have been cancelled. The reason for the cancellations, mostly European flights, is not yet known.
Schiphol said that the average security queue could increase considerably; by the afternoon, some travelers needed at least two hours to get through security. The crowds are coming and going in waves, but the ratio of passengers to security workers is adequate, the airport stated.
A few weeks ago, the airport pointed out that problems could continue to persist into the autumn. Harbers believes the company should have done a better job anticipating and preparing for this. After such a statement, "I also expect that they would have calculated that well so that unexpected situations like yesterday will no longer occur.”
The ministry is in contact with the airport, but the ministry does not interfere with the operational management, though the Dutch State is the majority shareholder. According to Harbers, Schiphol must ensure that it creates and offer an environment that is attractive enough for security officers to work there.
Union: “Draconian measures” may be needed at Schiphol
The long lines for security will continue off and on as long as no "draconian measures" are taken, said the FNV labor union’s Schiphol campaign manager, Joost van Doesburg. He expected to meet with airport management on Tuesday. Dozens of security guards have already quit since the end of a temporary hourly pay increase in place during the summer months.
Now, the security shortage is increasing again, Van Doesburg observed, saying it was at least partially due to the 5.25 euro per hour reduction in pay once the summer school holiday season ended. Many Schiphol employees have already indicated that they want to work elsewhere. "We do not know exactly how big the shortage is, but it certainly concerns several hundred security guards," said the FNV campaign manager.
“It seems to be a trend that the problems mainly occur on Mondays,” Van Doesburg stated. "While that is normally a very quiet day." The FNV manager said he did not know exactly why but has heard stories about temporary workers and self-employed contractors who do not show up on Mondays.
The airport needs a structural solution to fix its problems, but Van Doesburg would not say what measures the union has considered. "We mainly want to talk about how we get out of this. The security guards are completely done with it. I assume that Schiphol itself is too."
There is still a shortage of staff elsewhere at the airport, including in baggage handling, he noted. "On Monday, another mountain of luggage arose because people missed their flights. As a result, the luggage had to be removed from planes, which is a lot of extra work. And then you also have to deal with understaffing."
There were still many suitcases stranded in baggage claim areas on Tuesday.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times