Amsterdam airport is in chaos

On Thursday 14 July, a queue of about two hours will pass outside Amsterdam-Schiphol airport under the astonished eyes of the latest arrivals. Water bottles and stroopwafel – small Dutch caramel waffles – are handed out to reduce travellers’ anger. On the ground floor, in front of the train exit, under a red tent with the FNV logo, Joost van Doesburg, 37, is agitated. He hands out sugary drinks to the staff and looks tired. “Nothing has changed since May”, sighs the campaign manager of the FNV trade union for the airport. “Travelers all look concerned, and rightly so,” he adds. Nowadays no one knows who can go on holiday.

The match in question

Since the beginning of May, chaos has reigned at Amsterdam airport, the third largest airport in Europe in terms of passenger numbers after London-Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle. It all starts with a lack of security personnel. Then 16,000 bags ran out on arrival, flights were canceled in large numbers (about 20 a day for KLM in July and hundreds in total this summer), and there were daily delays after long hours of waiting to go through security. The airport, voted the best airport in the world seven times between 1980 and 2003, with a total of 120 awards, is disappointed. And will become the black sheep of Europe before the summer of 2022. “Traveling via Schiphol has become synonymous with stress and anger”, exclaims Joost van Doesburg.

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At the origin of the problem, the tired of the employees of the Amsterdam airport fell into the clutches of a chaotic system. “I’ve been working here for thirteen years and I’ve heard for thirteen years that our circumstances are going to change, but nothing is happening,” says an employee of one of the eight companies responsible for security at Schiphol. If there is disorder, trade union FNV blames the Royal Schiphol group, owner of the airport. Royal Schiphol is a private company with four shareholders: the Dutch State (69.8%), the Municipality of Amsterdam (20%), the Municipality of Rotterdam (2.2%) and the ADP group (8%).

For the FNV, the desire “to compete with the European aviation market to become a hub and create the cheapest aviation offer on the continent, has benefited from the smooth functioning of Schiphol”. Kerosene and building materials are just as expensive as elsewhere, so it is thanks to competition between companies “that Schiphol has saved a lot”, according to Joost, and that it is now “a disaster”.

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Interviewed on this topic, the Royal Schiphol Group defends itself: “The main reason for the current waiting times at the airport is linked to a shortage of staff at the airport”, and not to “minimum hourly wage with difficult conditions”, as the FNV campaign manager said. thinks. “A social agreement has also been reached between Schiphol and the trade unions, including a summer bonus,” adds Royal Schiphol spokesman Stefan Donker. This is “50% pay increase”, says Joost van Doesburg. But the guard, sitting on a bench, the cigarette on the edge of the lips, declares: This bonus is very random. I don’t touch it, unlike my colleague who does the same job for another company. It’s unfair.”

“Dramatic” consequences for KLM

This is not the only phenomenon that sows controversy at Schiphol. On July 4, 2022, the Dutch government announced its intention to reduce its flights from 500,000 per year to 440,000, or a decrease of 12%, while the original plan was aimed at 540,000 flights. The reduction should start in November 2023. The third airport in Europe therefore wants to be more ‘green’, because this reduction ‘leads to a decrease in nitrogen emissions’, according to the cabinet. Schiphol could lose its hub function when it was considered Europe’s first in air connectivity in 2022, according to Airports Council International.

The decision is made to the chagrin of KLM, the main Dutch airline: “The decision by the Dutch government to reduce operations at Schiphol will have dramatic consequences for KLM and its accessibility in the Netherlands, and will not deliver the desired benefits for our climate. yield and our quality of life,” the company says. But for Joost van Doesburg, this news means fewer planes in the air and less work pressure: “Employees can finally get some rest.”

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