Dick Benschop steps down as head of Schiphol Airport after long lines this week
This story will be updated.
Dick Benschop has announced his plans to step down as the CEO of Schiphol Airport. His decision came after yet another period where excessively long security lines led to thousands of passengers missing their flight this week.
Benschop told the Supervisory Board of his plans on Wednesday night. His decision was supported by the board, which has started to look for a successor. Benschop will remain in charge of the airport until his successor takes the reins.
"There is a lot of attention, and also criticism, for the way in which Schiphol tackles the problems and about my responsibility as CEO," Benschop said, adding that it was his choice to step down. "I do not want the attention on me personally to become an obstacle for Schiphol," he continued.
"I've done my very best, but we're not there yet. I do hope it gets better soon. I love Schiphol," Benschop said.
After weeks of relative calm, long lines returned to the airport first on 5 September, and then again on 12 September. In the latter, which was this past Monday, passengers had to wait in lines of up to three hours to access the security checkpoints at Departures 1 and Departures 3. It resulted in the airport asking airlines to cancel flights, angering the carriers as the airport committed to improving operations and capacity. Queues were also lengthy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but not quite as bad as before.
"Due to the situation and the continuing bad news, the Supervisory Board has had very intensive contact with Schiphol's management in recent months," said Jaap Winter, the supervisory board chair for the airport. "Drastic measures were taken under Dick's leadership to stabilize the situation at Schiphol. Improvements were made in the summer, but this was not enough. Further intervention in the capacity and in the management of security is necessary."
The lines returned once security workers stopped receiving a summer bonus of 5.25 euros per hour, which was used to entice the guards to keep showing up for work during the school vacation period. More changes are needed to prevent further problems, said the FNV labor union. They want the airport to take control of operations, instead of continuing to outsource it to security companies, temp agencies, and self-employed workers. They also want the airport to make scheduling more consistent, with workers offered a full eight-hour shift for each day they work, instead of being brought in to plug gaps.
Staff shortages in baggage handling and airport security caused massive lines at the airport in recent months. The chaos broke out on April 23, the first weekend of the May vacation, and persisted throughout the summer. Travelers spent hours waiting in line, often outside in the hot summer. Many missed their flights. Tens of thousands of suitcases were left behind, and there were even a few clashes between desperate travelers and overworked security guards.
In late May, Benschop faced criticism for being absent from the airport often while employees struggled to deal with the massive crowds. Benschop insisted that he was always available and said he wouldn’t resign.
The airport limited its passenger numbers to 67,500 per day in July - some 13,500 per day less than tickets available. After relaxing the limit somewhat in August, it applied new limits to September and October. Last month, the airport launched a compensation scheme for travelers who missed their flights as a result of the chaos.