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Schiphol press conference: Many flights will be slashed to limit passengers; CEO won’t quit

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Fewer travelers will be allowed to use Schiphol Airport this summer, as the airport will set a hard limit to the maximum number of passengers who can use the airport, Schiphol confirmed on Thursday. In advance of that announcement, Dutch airline KLM said it would hold the airport financially responsible, and tour operator Corendon said it would move 150 flights to Rotterdam The Hague Airport.

The airport’s CEO, Dick Benschop, spoke to reporters during a press conference on Thursday, saying it is not responsible to move forward with the busy summer season from July 7 to August 28 without implementing measures to deal with crowds and staffing problems. “That is why we have decided to intervene now so that people know in time what is going to happen.”

Schiphol will require the cancellation of multiple flights per day to meet its goal of about 67,500 passengers per day in July. That limit will increase to 72,500 in August. The airport’s slot coordinator, who coordinates all take-off and landing rights, is working with the various airlines that use Schiphol to achieve those totals. In July, the limit would be broken by about 13,500 people per day if every seat on every plane is sold, according to the airport.

The problems at Schiphol are too big to solve on a voluntary basis, Benschop said. The CEO concluded that cancelling flights in consultation with the slot coordinator is the best option. Benschop states that other major European airports such as Heathrow in London and Frankfurt airport are also taking similar measures.

Schiphol is taking the step to cancel flights prevent “unmanageable queues.” As a result, many travelers would likely miss their flight, and unsafe situations could arise for airline passengers, airline employees, and airport employees. There are extensive staff shortages at the airport, particularly at security checkpoints. Combined with the increased flow of vacationers, long lines have frequently stretched outside the departure halls over the last two months.

Schiphol said it will help airlines that move their flights to other airports, and incur additional costs as a result. In addition, Schiphol is well aware that airlines and travel organizations can file claims against the airport. “We’ll go into that, too.”

CEO will not step down

During the press conference, Benschop said he was not thinking about resigning from his job. He sees it as his “great task to tackle things. And I also feel supported in that.”

Last month he was accused of being largely absent when the airport was contending with a peak number of passengers that left some passengers struggling to get from the entrance of the airport to their gate in under six hours. Benschop went on holiday to Portugal with his family during the May holiday. Meanwhile, some travelers missed their flights due to the large crowds at Schiphol.

Benschop said he was always able to be reached, and was readily available when there were major problems at the airport, he said in his defense last month on an episode of the talk show, Buitenhof. He countered criticism by saying that, even from a distance, he was always busy solving problems.

Benschop was also on a boat with family members on King’s Day, when the airport had to limit access to a terminal due to the crowds. He was spotted on the boat in the Westerborekpark in The Hague, though he later claimed he was absent from Schiphol during this period due to a Covid-19 infection. 

“That seems ridiculous, I am well aware of that,” he said. Benschop claimed he had been at home all week with a coronavirus infection, and “escaped” that day, and was briefly on the boat. “The rest of the day I was available and reachable again,” he added.

He was also forced to cut short is trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland because of queues at the airport. He was in Davos to talk about making aviation more sustainable.

When asked during Thursday’s press conference if he was going to take a summer holiday, he plainly replied, “No.”

KLM: Schiphol responsible for financial impact measures

KLM said it will hold Schiphol responsible for the financial impact of the measures announced by the airport on Thursday. “With the current information that we have received from Schiphol, it is expected that it will not be necessary to cancel existing bookings on a large scale,” KLM said.

KLM “endorses the need to take additional measures,” a spokesperson said. The company emphasizes that the forced reduction of boarding passengers is highly undesirable and must be “one-off, and short-lived.”

She went on to say, “It cannot be the case that the users of the airport are structurally responsible for Schiphol’s capacity problems.”

Low-cost carrier Transavia, which is also owned by Air France – KLM, will sell considerably fewer seats this summer on flights departing from Amsterdam. It also fears cancellations will be necessary due to Schiphol’s decision to process far fewer passengers this summer, but is trying to “limit this as much as possible.”

“Our passengers want clarity. To avoid as much disappointment as possible, we are therefore slowing down the sale of tickets for the summer by selling only a very limited number of tickets, and reducing the maximum number of passengers on a number of flights,” said Marcel de Nooijer, the CEO of Transavia in a statement.

Transavia expects to be able to provide more clarity about what flights are affected over the course of the next week. “Passengers whose flights are canceled will receive a message about this. Ticket rebooking during the summer holidays is limited due to the limited availability of capacity in the summer due to Schiphol’s restrictions.”

Transavia will continue to sell tickets from Eindhoven, Rotterdam, and Brussels, but the flights are filling up quickly.

Corendon to cut 25 percent of Schiphol flights

Travel organization Corendon, which also operates an airline, will move 150 of its flights from Schiphol to Rotterdam The Hague Airport in July and August. The company will also cancel about 35 flights per day at Schiphol by merging them with other flights, or moving them to other regional airports. Corendon is thus reducing its flights utilizing the Amsterdam-area airport by about one-fourth.

Corendon said that it was optimistic its plan would allow as many people as possible to embark on their planned holidays.

In addition, it is up to companies and travel organizations themselves to puzzle over the numbers. This concerns, for example, rebooking passengers, moving flights to other airports or setting a booking freeze.

Air travel recovery faster than anticipated

During the coronavirus pandemic, international travel was almost at a complete standstill. The recovery is happening faster than expected. Schiphol said it is on pace to host more than double the number of passengers than last year, from 25.5 million in 2021 to 60 million this year.

However, on the busiest days of the recent May holiday, more travelers flew through the airport than expected. The airport said that was likely to happen again during the upcoming summer holidays.

To attract more staff, the airport agreed with the unions that security officers, baggage handlers, cleaning personnel and bus drivers at the airport will receive a bonus this summer.

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