The problems at Schiphol airport cannot be solved overnight because staffing issues are affecting far more sectors than just aviation, infrastructure minister Mark Harbers has told RTL Nieuws.
The minister’s comments followed a second weekend of long waits and cancellations at the airport because of a shortage of ground crew and surge in passenger numbers due to the May holiday break.
The situation at the airport is ‘very irritating’ for travellers, Harbers said, adding that ‘the shortage of staff is a wider problem than the airport and one which cannot be solved just like that’.
‘It is right that Schiphol is talking to airlines about reducing the pressure in the coming weeks and for the summer holidays,’ he said. ‘I am keeping a finger on the pulse’.
Dutch News journalist Molly Quell said it took her 2 hours 40 minutes to get through security, after starting to queue outside the terminal building. ‘This is, without a doubt, the longest it had ever taken me to get to the gate at Schiphol, non-EU flights included,’ she said.
Airlines and travel organisations have slammed the airport authority for failing to tackle the problem and for asking them to cancel flights to reduce pressure on the airport’s facilities.
Iata, the international airline organisation, pointed out that airlines pay fees to be able to use the airport’s services.
‘We do not support Schiphol’s request to cancel the bookings made by local departure passengers,’ Iata said in a letter to the airport authority. ‘Passengers book flights weeks or months in advance. Some will have to cancel their holiday plans. This is not just about a ticket, it is about an entire trip.’
There is also mounting criticism of the lack of public comment by Schiphol’s directors and this was particularly the case during last week’s wildcat strike by baggage operators, the Telegraaf said.
Schiphol has said it expects long waits for travellers again this week, but not to have to ask airlines and tour operators to cancel flights.
Meanwhile, the FNV trade union has praised the work of staff over the past few weeks and says it is extremely concerned about the coming summer break.
‘There are limits to what you can do with the current staffing levels,’ spokesman David van de Geer said.
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