UPDATE – Over the weekend and including today, KLM has been forced that cancel almost 100 flights at its Amsterdam Schiphol hub following persistent staff shortages at airport security. The airline says it is “very disenchanted” by the short notice it was given by Schiphol, which only told airlines on Friday that a new capacity cut would be enforced the next day until October 31.
Schiphol is certainly not alone with labor shortages, with London Heathrow also suffering from the same problem for months. But the issues in Amsterdam have become so persistent, that the airport’s CEO, Dick Benschop, voluntarily filed his resignation last week. Benschop felt that criticism of the way that the airport handled the problem was getting overly focused on his person and that the best option would be to step down. Benschop will continue until a successor has been found, which could take quite some time.
The airport said on Friday that it was forced to reduce daily capacity by eighteen percent of some 9.200 passengers because security is unable to cope with the previous capacity plan. On September 12, the airport system almost collapsed when only 25 percent of security staff was available. Many staff seems to have left since Schiphol stopped paying an extra summer season bonus of €500 per month. During a job fair in July, the airport managed to contract a few hundred new staff but the same number of workers has now left again. The seven baggage handling companies, the result of the airport’s policy from some years back to stimulate competition and reduce handling fares, also struggle with shortages. In May, Schiphol also called on airlines to cancel flights as it struggled with staffing issues.
The sudden capacity reduction forced KLM and KLM Cityhopper to cancel outbound 34 flights on Saturday, 22 on Sunday, and 42 for today. Aircraft will operate the flights but depart Amsterdam empty for their destinations, only to fly passengers back to Amsterdam. “This has been a difficult choice, but it is also the only way to comply with the airport’s request to limit the number of passengers boarding, reduce queues at Security, enable returning passengers to travel as expected, and ease pressure on operations”, KLM said in a media statement ahead of the weekend. While the airline can rebook some passengers on other flights on the same day, this isn’t possible in all situations. Flight cancelations could also have affected transfer passengers, although they don’t need to go through security when they arrive on another flight.
Impact on Transavia still unclear
Air France-KLM leisure subsidiary Transavia has canceled only one flight this weekend and moved a charter service to Rotterdam The Hague Airport. The full impact of the capacity restrictions on the flight schedule still isn’t clear. “We are waiting for more details from the Dutch slot coordinator, who will advise us how many flights he wishes to see canceled and when”, a Transavia spokesperson tells AirInsight. “Of course, we want to cancel as little as possible, but it is too early to tell what will happen. Moving more flights to Rotterdam, as we have done this summer, isn’t a sustainable solution either, as that airport is also facing capacity constraints.”
UK low-cost airline easyJet is the number two airline at Schiphol, operating from a dedicated terminal. The Monday schedule shows that most flights seem to operate as scheduled, with only a single service to London Gatwick having been canceled. A spokesperson tells AirInsight that easyJet, like Transavia, is awaiting the outcome of the capacity review by the slot coordinator. She says that the schedule remained unchanged over the weekend, except for reductions that following the previous capacity cuts in early August were announced until October 30. easyJet says that 99 percent of passengers that were on affected flights have been rebooked within 24 hours on alternative flights.
Dutch secretary of Infrastructure Mark Harbers called on Schiphol to solve the staffing issues as quickly as possible but doesn’t offer any quick fix as it will be up to the airport to find one. Unions call for a structural ‘summer fee’ and raise salaries to competitive levels so that working at Schiphol becomes attractive again.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.