Schiphol traveler numbers doubled last year; Airport unprepared for summer, union says
Schiphol received 52.5 million passengers last year, more than double the number a year earlier. This concerns people who flew to, from, or through the airport. Despite the hours-long lines and baggage chaos at the airport last year, the number of travelers was still lower than in 2019, the last year before the coronavirus crisis broke out. Trade union FNV fears new chaos at Schiphol this year if airlines don’t tackle the towering shortage of baggage handlers.
In 2019, 71.7 million travelers traveled through Schiphol, about a quarter more than in 2022. According to the airport, the “recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continued” last year. The number of flight movements at Schiphol also increased last year, by 49 percent to almost 400,000. That number is also still lower than pre-pandemic when the airport recorded nearly 500,000 flight movements.
FNV fears that this year will hold new chaos at Schiphol. The problems at the airport have still not been resolved, and the airport is not ready for the summer at all in terms of baggage handling, according to the union.
“With the security guards at Schiphol, we now see that things are really improving thanks to better employment conditions, an extensive recruitment campaign, and better work schedules. But the work pressure is still much too high for the baggage handlers because there are too few people,” said FNV campaign manager Joost van Doesburg.
These staff shortages caused significant problems at Schiphol last summer, resulting in enormous waiting times and many people missing their flights.
Van Doesburg thinks Schiphol will succeed in getting the over 800 extra security personnel it needs in time. But the shortage of baggage handlers is increasing to many hundreds of people. According to him, employees have received a 10 percent wage increase, but even with that, baggage handlers are still only earning about the minimum wage. “That is too low to keep people employed for a longer period of time because people can also work elsewhere,” he said.
FNV sent a letter to the airlines at Schiphol, urging them to talk with the baggage handling companies they use. According to Van Doesburg, it is up to the airlines to find a solution. FNV believes airlines should come up with extra money. Handling companies like Swissport or Aviapartner are not in such a good position that they could easily implement major improvements to the terms of employment on their own initiative.
“If something doesn’t happen soon, we will get the same picture this summer as the previous one. And nobody is waiting for that,” said Van Doesburg. Last year, the first problems arose around the May holiday. That now also seems to be a critical moment, Van Doesburg said.
The number of travelers who flew through Eindhoven Airport in 2022 also increased from 2.7 million to 6.3 million. Rotterdam The Hague Airport processed over 2.1 million travelers, 180 percent more than a year earlier and about 1 percent more than in 2019. Like Schiphol, these airports’ flight movements also increased but remained below the pre-pandemic level.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times