Schiphol still crowded; Airlines angered, workers offer solutions
It was again busy at Schiphol Airport on Wednesday morning, but the lines were shorter than the three-hour wait at security checkpoints on Monday. Airlines said they cannot continue to be asked by the airport to cancel flights at the last minute every time long lines return, and the FNV labor union believes many problems can be fixed with better, more reliable scheduling. Among the aggrieved passengers this week were 100 football fans who missed out on seeing Ajax play their Champions League match in Liverpool as a result of the problems.
"There are queues, people are also outside. But it is going well, there are no details to report," a spokesperson for Schiphol said on Wednesday. It was a similar set of circumstances as on Tuesday, she said, when lines for Departures 1 stretched outside, and Departures 3 passengers occasionally had to wait outside.
Monday’s overcrowding was due to a shortage of security staff workers, who no longer receive a bonus of over five euros per hours that was doled out during the summer vacation period. Due to the crowds, thousands of people had to queue up for hours, and many missed their flight.
The troubling scene on Monday prompted Schiphol to ask airlines to cancel flights to mitigate the crowd, a decision which was "extremely disappointing and unacceptable," said Marnix Fruitema, the chair of airline association BARIN. He referred to the situation at Schiphol as a disaster, with airlines working to recover the costs of all cancellations and delays from the airport.
"The long queues and, as a result, the substandard service Schiphol provided to passengers and airlines still does not seem to be coming to an end,” he said, noting that there were also long lines on 5 September amid a staffing shortage. Long lines in the morning also “have a disruptive effect for the rest of the day," Fruitema said.
Unions bring ideas to the table to get beyond chaotic state
Trade union FNV presented a series of proposals during consultations with Schiphol on Tuesday to combat the shortage of security guards at the airport. "We have given our vision for solutions, because the staff shortages have returned in full force at Schiphol," said FNV campaign manager Joost van Doesburg. He advocated for permanent contracts and a guarantee that security guards could get eight hours per working shift if the guards want to work a full day.
Van Doesburg said it is especially important that work at Schiphol be made more attractive and that improvements need to prevent security guards from effectively quitting. "With each new chaotic day at Schiphol, more security guards make the decision to leave. We have to stop that outflow."
There must also be reliable schedules that security guards can "build their lives around" and wages that are "more than competitive with other sectors," Van Doesburg continued. He also believes that Schiphol should take the task into its own hands instead of outsourcing it to security companies. "This gives Schiphol much more control. It is the only way to solve the crisis," said the FNV campaign manager.
"Schiphol again seems surprised by a shortage of security personnel and clearly does not have things in order," said Fruitema, the airline industry representative. BARIN will urge Schiphol and Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Mark Harbers to make other agreements at the airport "so that the airlines will actually receive what they pay for via the significantly rising airport charges.”
Politicians demanding solutions soon
An evaluation of the chaos at Schiphol airport must be carried out quickly, Harbers said during a question and answer period at the Tweede Kamer. This was already planned for "after the summer," but the minister now emphasizes that it must be done "very soon." Schiphol must quickly introduce a plan of action to improve the situation.
The ministry will also provide a periodic update on the situation at the airport. The department had stopped this because the airport's services became "more stable" in the course of August.
Harbers said the problems this week meant it was likely that the number of passengers who missed a flight ranged in the thousands. Earlier in the day, he had called it a “new low point” for the airport.
Schiphol said that additional consultations were held with the unions and also the security companies, and said it wants to come up with solutions in the short term. "We also appreciate the security guards for the hard work they do," an airport spokesperson said.
Dozens of Ajax fans miss Champions League match
About a hundred Ajax supporters who had a valid ticket were unable to attend the football team’s group stage Champions League match against Liverpool at Anfield stadium in England. Many of them were simply unable to get to the match as a result of the chaos at the airport.
Roughly 2,400 of the 2,600 fans with a ticket for the away supporters’ section were able to pick up their ticket a mile away from Anfield by the 4:30 p.m. deadline. Another 100 or so were still on the way, and reached Anfield at the last minute. Ajax stayed in touch with them to help them gain entry to the match.
In some cases, a few fans may miss an away match despite having a ticket. However, it is very unusual for dozens of fans to miss a popular event like the Champions League match against Liverpool, with blame being placed on Schiphol.
Those Ajax fans who missed flights from Amsterdam to Liverpool or Manchester this week used creative means to get to the game on time. Some traveled by car or boat, while others created an odd multi-stop travel itinerary to get to the north of England via airports in Ibiza, Mallorca, Oslo, Milan and Düsseldorf.
Passengers have limited time to apply for compensation
Earlier in the week, Schiphol said that passengers who missed their flight on Monday because of the long lines can apply for compensation from the airport. The airport previously instituted a compensation scheme for people who incurred extra costs due to airport operations from 23 April through 11 August.
The scheme is still open for applications through the end of the month. The airport is expected to give a clearer overview of the number of compensation claims it has received once the program closes. About 2,600 people applied in the first few weeks after it was introduced.