Schiphol to end limit on departing passengers; Security staffing closer to normal
Schiphol Airport will remove limitations it placed on airlines to restrict the number of departing passengers in time for the spring travel season and the May vacation period. The airport forced airlines to reduce capacity either by underselling their aircraft, combining flights, cancelling flights, or moving flights to other airports. The measure was put in place last year after staff shortages at security checkpoints caused enormous lines at the Amsterdam-area airport, which is the second largest in Europe by passenger totals. The long queues caused thousands of passengers to miss their flights, and led to the resignation of CEO Dick Benschop.
His interim replacement, Ruud Sontag, said on Wednesday that security recruitment has gone well, and airport operations should become more normal in time for the May vacation period. The limit on departing passengers will end on March 26. "However, additional effort will be required from all parties concerned at several peak moments, especially in the morning, in order to prevent excessively long queues and delays in processing," the airport cautioned in a statement.
The airport is still working on hiring more security staff as part of a campaign which launched in November. The recruitment drive has a goal of 850 new security officers, and Schiphol is about halfway there. When new security staff members are recruited, they cannot be put to work immediately due to the lengthy background check and training required.
The airport still has specific concerns about the 6 a.m. - 11 a.m. window on peak travel days, especially at the end of March. It is working with the airlines, baggage handlers, and other parties, like the Marechaussee, to "organize those peak moments in such a way that travellers do not experience long queues."
Schiphol is hoping that voluntary agreements will allow for more passengers to be spread out to other times of day. The worst-case scenario could mean a return of mandatory restrictions. The airport has also begun to structurally cut down on the number of flight movements at the airport, which could help address overcrowding.
If all goes well, the end of the capacity limitations will begin about a month before the May vacation period starts on April 29 in all regions of the Netherlands. "More travel will be possible again in the May holidays. The decision on the final capacity for that period will be taken in consultation with partners at the airport," Schiphol said.
A shortage of security workers and baggage handlers caused chaos at Schiphol over the past summer season. Travelers regularly queued for hours in front of security checks, and thousands of suitcases only reached their destinations long after their owners did. The staff shortages in baggage handling meant luggage stacked up for weeks at the airport once suitcases were offloaded.
In an attempt to cope with the crowds, Schiphol repeatedly restricted the number of passengers who could depart from the airport per day. The airport implemented the first limits in July, initially saying they would last through the summer. But long lines continued to plague the airport, eventually forcing Schiphol to restrict passenger numbers through March.