2022 holiday chaos at Schiphol linked to outsourcing; Not all problems solved
A report published on Friday revealed that Schiphol Airport did not have control over all activities during the 2022 holiday season, which was marked by delayed, canceled, or missed flights and long queues. This is primarily due to outsourcing many of its activities in the past few years to reduce costs.
Researchers drew these conclusions from the consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a report about the 2022 holiday season. The report revealed that Schiphol lacked important information, such as the number of available handlers or the length of queues, due to the extensive outsourcing of work in previous years. This exposed the downside of years of efforts to operate as cheaply as possible, with passenger interests becoming secondary.
The report also stated that the problems that caused the chaos were not new. As early as 2017, staff shortages at security companies led to long queues. There were also structural shortages in 2021, and security companies had already warned that they could not provide enough staff for the expected passenger flow in 2022.
According to PwC, Schiphol focused too much on operating as cheaply as possible for years, with the researchers also pointing to airlines. They advocated in 2021 for Schiphol to keep operating costs as low as possible, which would then keep the airport fees low as well. According to the report, Schiphol should undertake more activities itself instead of outsourcing. The report noted that passenger advocates should also have a role in the airport's management.
In reaction to the report, Schiphol interim CEO Ruud Sondag wrote in a letter to the Minister of Infrastructure Mark Harbers that not all problems had been resolved. Sondag took over for Dick Benschop, who stepped down last year as head of Schiphol Airport due to the chaos.
"During the May holiday of 2023, passengers again had a pleasant journey via Schiphol. This shows that the measures we took are working, and it gives us confidence for the rest of the summer season," Sondag wrote. "At the same time, we realize that we are not there yet. More is needed to solve the operational problems structurally and regain the trust of travelers, airlines, and society."
He noted that the "extremely competitive market for handlers at Schiphol" is still a problem. He also acknowledged that working conditions at Schiphol must improve, and the infrastructure needs refurbishment.
Reporting by ANP