KLM to cancel dozens more flights this week as Schiphol struggles continue
Dutch airline KLM will cancel an average of about 15 departing flights on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to contend with restrictions on the number of departing passengers at Schiphol Airport. A higher number of flights will be cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, KLM told media outlets on Wednesday. More flights will also be cancelled or consolidated in the weeks to come.
This past Saturday, KLM cut 34 flights from its operations, then dropped another 22 departing flights the following day, all in response to overcrowded security lines at Schiphol. The airline cancelled an additional 42 flights on Monday. The cancellations this coming weekend are not expected to be as severe as last weekend.
Airlines were cancelling flights to reduce the number of passengers who needed to clear security, primarily at Schiphol's request. By reducing the lines, the airlines also have a better chance that their remaining scheduled flights depart on time. In some cases, passengers have simply been told not to show up for a scheduled flight. One KLM customer told NL Times that their itinerary for a flight from Amsterdam to Paris was cancelled, even though the flight departed as planned. Her business colleague said the flight on Wednesday was half full. A KLM spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the situation.
After a tumultuous second quarter, the staffing problems at Schiphol Airport briefly disappeared during the summer vacation period when security officers received a bonus of 5.25 euros per hour during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. The summer bonus was expected to cost the airport up to 50 million euros in total. That additional amount then fell to 1.40 euros per hour at the start of September. When the rate fell, security personnel often opted to work elsewhere. The workers are contracted from staffing companies and can be given the option to work at other locations where the pay is higher or less stressful.
There were still periods where there were not enough security workers at the airport, but it was more infrequent in August. That changed the following month, when the staffing issues led to long lines at the airport on 5 September, then on 12 September and intermittently afterward. In some cases, the waiting time just to get to the security checkpoint at Departures 1 stretched to well over three hours. For the first time in weeks, the queues extended for hundreds of meters outside of the airport.
The return of long lines at the airport led to the resignation of Dick Benschop, the airport's CEO. He informed the supervisory board that he will stay in his role until they hire a successor. The news of his departure was met with mixed reactions. While the airline industry group BARIN noted that his solutions to the staff shortages were largely temporary, labor union FNV said that the loss of a CEO meant it might take longer for the airport to implement a structural solution to its security issues.
As a result, scheduled flights will continue to be cancelled, consolidated, or moved to other regional airports in the weeks to come. KLM, the largest operator at Schiphol Airport, was asked to continue to reduce the number of passengers departing from Schiphol over the remainder of September, which can also include a freeze on further ticket sales.
Additionally, the airport told airlines that the maximum number of departing passengers needs to fall by 18 percent at least during the month of October to prevent excessive waiting times at security.