Chaos at Schiphol: why the biggest Dutch airport is struggling so much

Hour-long queues, missed flights, and compensation claims — Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has made one negative headline after another this year. Here’s why. 👇

After two years of the coronavirus pandemic, this first post-lockdown May holiday really put Schiphol to the test. Unfortunately, Europe’s third busiest airport has been struggling ever since.

READ MORE | Here we go again: long lines and missed flights at Schiphol airport

Planning to fly to or from Amsterdam via Schiphol in the next couple of weeks? We’ve got some insight into what’s going on, and what you can do to avoid this madness as best as you can.

What is happening at Schiphol airport?

In case you’ve missed it, here’s what happened at Amsterdam’s main airport around mid-May:

On some days, passengers stood in line for hours, in particular, to get through the security check. During certain times, the queues even reached beyond the airport building.

Sometimes, on the same day at a different time, passengers had no trouble at all. The entire organisation of the airport seems to have been turned upside down.

Why is there chaos at Schiphol airport?

The main reason for the overcrowding and long lines at Schiphol airport? Staff shortages, especially at the security check-in.

Staff shortages

But why are there staff shortages? Well, here it gets a bit more complex.

One of the reasons is that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of staff was let go. Schiphol is to blame here because they slept on recruiting new staff in time, which now shows in missing personnel at the security, baggage drop-off, cleaning, and information desks.

Another problem is that Schiphol struggles to keep its staff. When the airport experienced an influx of travellers during the end of April, about 150 employees went on a strike to protest the terrible working conditions, says NH Nieuws.

The pressure is simply too much on the understaffed teams. In addition, Schiphol does not pay well, no more than €11 per hour, according to the NOS. Yep, that’s Dutch stinginess at its finest.

Scheduling issues

Another reason for the chaos at Schiphol airport is an overly packed arrival and departure schedule. Too many flights departing at the same time only increases the pressure on the security and check-in desks.

What is being done to improve the situation at Schiphol?

Phew, and that was only the May holiday. But what will happen as soon as the summer months roll around and everyone wants to forget their worries on a sandy beach abroad?

Well, Schiphol has just recently announced an ‘action plan‘ for this year’s summer. Here’s what’ll hopefully save you from having to wake up 8 hours early to catch your flight to Spain:

  • Hiring new staff — Schiphol has promised to ramp up its recruitment game, especially for security. On June 11, there will be a job fair for employment seekers and a nationwide ad campaign is in the works.
  • Increasing wages — Schiphol is currently in conversation with the labour unions to increase the wages of its staff.
  • Working on logistics — the airport will try to re-organise its in-building traffic routes to limit overcrowding and disperse passengers more evenly.
  • A new flight schedule — from June 1 to August 28, Schiphol has announced that it would introduce a new schedule that’ll match the number of incoming and departing flights to the number of available staff. This might mean that there will be fewer flights available, but at least there will be less chaos too!

How is Schiphol looking right now?

Okay, let’s pause for a minute and turn towards you. Hey, how is it going? 😊

Are you reading this because you’re about to embark on your summer vacation and you really want to know what will await you at Schiphol’s gates?

With this handy tool, you can check how busy the airport is before you arrive. It’ll tell you the business for departures and arrivals on any given day.

One bar? You’re probably good to go. Three bars? Maybe re-schedule your flight or wake up 8 hours in advance to make it through security. 😅

Tips to avoid the chaos at Schiphol

Just to be clear: all of this is Schiphol’s fault and you’re the victim here. Nevertheless, now that we’re part of this mess, there are a couple of things we can do to avoid the dreaded #schipholchaos.

  • Arrive early — the general recommendation is to arrive two hours before an in-Europe flight and three hours before an intercontinental flight. But if the Schiphol-business barometer shows you those three bars, maybe get there up to five or six hours early. 😅 (We’re so sorry.)
  • Change your booking — if you have a flex ticket where re-booking your flight is free of charge, maybe consider doing just that! Choose a day when it’s not as busy or a different airport!
  • Hand luggage isn’t the answer — if you thought that travelling with hand luggage only will save you some time at the check-in, you’ve got it wrong. Extra hand luggage just means that there is even more pressure on the security staff. Sorry!
  • Consider another airport — we know it’s hard to believe, but Schiphol isn’t the only airport in the Netherlands! Rotterdam The Hague Airport and Eindhoven Airport are both excellent options.

Know your rights as a Schiphol traveller

Okay, let’s say that you booked a nice trip outside the Netherlands but your airline decided to send you a nice little message saying your flight has been cancelled as well. Now what?

Well, at this point it’s important to face the facts and know your rights as a traveller in case this does actually happen.

  • Alternative flights: if your airline doesn’t book an alternative flight for you in time, you can book one for yourself instead. However, the flight must be somewhat similar to the one you were supposed to take.
  • Compensation: if your flight is more than two hours late to your final destination due to strikes, shortages or long queues, you’re entitled to compensation varying between €125 to €600. As a traveller, you’re likely to get compensation at your landing place, on top of getting a new flight ticket or a refund. The amount you’re compensated depends on three things: the distance you travelled, the length of the delay and when you were notified.
  • Voucher codes: if you’re offered a voucher by your airlines in case your plane doesn’t take off, you’re only entitled to it as long as the deal also offers you to get your actual money back.

Alright, we really hope that these tips will help you start your summer holidays a little bit more smoothly this year. But also, let’s take a collective breath and say: Schiphol, step up your game!

Have you been at Schiphol airport lately? What was your experience? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara moved to the Netherlands at fifteen and she is here to stay! After all, there is so much to love about it, except maybe the bread (as every German will tell you). Next to finishing up her bachelor's degree in European politics (dry), Cara loves to do yoga, swim, and cook delicious veggie food.

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  1. It was awful! We had to spend the night in the airport and there were mice scampering around all over the place. Internet was not good and kept dropping my attempts to contact Delta . We were able to get a flight out the next day (to Detroit rather than Boston – just to get out of the country.)

  2. I don’t know if flying out of Schiphol to the States on May 8 qualifies as “recent”, but I had no trouble whatsoever. It did take me about an hour to check in online (thankfully with the help of my daughter-in-law). I kept reading that flights were being cancelled so was really apprehensive. When we got to Schiphol I was surprised that parking was easy and the airport didn’t seem overly busy. In my favor, though, was that I had requested a wheelchair and was flying first class. Check-in was quick and I had plenty of time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack with my children. My wheelchair attendant was awesome. My NL children have a trip to the States scheduled for July and because of the Schiphol chaos, they are flying out of Dusseldorf – cheaper and just about the same distance from their home in Groningen.


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