Schiphol CEO’s resignation can delay fix to recent chaos, says union; Airlines hope for guidance
The FNV labor union said it was "unfortunate" that CEO Dick Benschop will be leaving Schiphol Airport. The leader’s resignation took many by surprised, and was announced the same day the airport reportedly asked airlines to reduce the number of passengers departing daily from the airport.
"I do not know if the resignation gets us any closer to the solution to the problems. I would say that action is what really leads to solutions. I am afraid that this will delay the solution further," said FNV campaign manager Joost van Doesburg of FNV.
Previously, FNV and other groups concluded an agreement with Schiphol to bring about structural improvements for personnel working at the airport. "My confidence in Benschop was based on the fact that we had made those agreements. Now Schiphol has to look for someone else," said Van Doesburg.
Dick Benschop's resignation was the result of failing policies at the airport, said BARIN, the industry association for airlines operating in the Netherlands. It is difficult to blame Benschop alone, but the solutions proposed to deal with the crowds this summer were anything but structural solutions, said BARIN chair Marnix Fruitema.
To cope with the crowds, airlines were asked to reduce the number of passengers. They are again being asked to extend these reductions, now into October. "Is it right for Benschop to leave? I’ll leave that up to you for now. But the point on the horizon in terms of solutions has not arrived," said Fruitema. Schiphol’s management, its supervisory board, and political leadership in The Hague have all failed, he said.
Benschop resigned from his position on his own accord, the CEO said. His departure came as a surprise to Fruitema. "But we have had other surprises," said Fruitema. Benschop's successor must be someone who makes clear choices and sets out parameters, he said. He should beat the table with his fist when necessary
The BARIN chair further said that substantial investments must be made to improve working conditions, scheduling and payment. "That also means that 'The Hague', as a major shareholder, must accept that Schiphol 's profitability will come under pressure. The extra costs must be paid by Schiphol and not by the companies."
KLM boss Marjan Rintel understood Benschop’s decision in light of the recent and ongoing chaos at the airport. "In the interest of our customers, I expect that things will be put in order quickly and adequately," she said.
The Dutch airline is Schiphol’s largest carrier, and was hard hit by the airport’s measures to reduce airport crowding. The airport effectively cancelled dozens of flights to keep the passenger flow at Schiphol manageable. Rintel said earlier that she expected the staff shortages in aviation to be noticeable for a long time to come.
Rintel took the helm of KLM this past summer. She previously apologized to passengers who suffered from delays, cancellations, lost luggage and long waiting times at airports. She said KLM will do its utmost to regain the trust of affected travelers.
Budget airline easyJet, also a major operator at Schiphol, said, “Our focus remains on working with Schiphol to improve airport operations and thereby the passenger experience, and we look forward to working with the new CEO when he takes office.”
The resignation was a “logical consequence of what has happened at the airport in recent months,” said cabin crew labor union VNC. “It is of course dramatic what has happened in recent months with the passenger queues. Not only aviation, but also the hospitality industry is affected by this.”
VNC used football to make the comparison. “If Ajax’s gameplay is bad, the trainer must also leave. Benschop not only did this, but as a top man you have to take responsibility. What did play a role in our opinion is that he was invisible during the whole process.”
Schiphol has been very slow to react to the problems, the union said. “It wasn't until the first lines formed that they saw that they had a problem. Not everything has been done to deal with it."
FNV did not blame Benschop for the fact that Schiphol was "much too stuck in the race to the bottom" and stuck trying to make things cheaper and cheaper. "That was already part of the strategy before his arrival." Van Doesburg was surprised by Benschop's departure and did not see it coming, but he understood. "The pressure on him was high."
Reporting by ANP