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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What do you think?

  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.

  3. Sorry but it’s as bad as we’ve and your advice is wrong. This article suggests arriving earlier than two hour per departure. Last week we met a lady in tears who just missed her flight. She arrived 5 hours pre departure but was turned away by security because she was too early. She came back later, spent THREE HOURS trying get through the airport. Then missed her flight. Someone at the top needs to lose their job over this.

  4. Schiphol is so disorganized, it’s like nobody is in charge. I flew out of Schiphol on June 27th to LA. long lines, only two security checkpoints open. It seems that no effort have been taken to relieve any pressure for months now. Dear Schiphol, just hire more people, pay them more!
    To KLM, your online boarding system needs an update for US citizens flying back to the US related to Covid requirements. I was able to check in but I could not get my online boarding pass. The form even says that its not required for US citizens. I could not get passed this loophole so had to wait in line (I had no bags to check) for over 2 hours to get my boarding pass. I almost missed my flight. In hindsight, I should have upgraded to Priority boarding for $150 at the kiosk.

  5. We leave in Oman. We flew from Schiphol to Keflavik Airport in Iceland on the 4th of July by Icelandair. We arrived at the airport 5 hours before and managed to get through the security in 3 hours and board the plane. But because the suitcases from the previous flight was not unloaded, our suitcases couldn’t make it to our flight even though we checked them in 5 hours before. Now we are in one of the most expensive cities in the world on holiday without any extra clothes. This was completely irresponsible of Amsterdam airport and the airlines. Government bailed out airlines paying billions of dollars so that they keep the staff. But here we are regular folks suffering because of their incompetence and greed.

  6. It is was a bad experience ever, three times before boarding my flight time changed, but at the end we departure 40 minutes later in Dar es Salaam where I missed my flight from Amsterdam to Munich then they changed my flight route from Amsterdam to Geneva where I we departure an hour later I also missed the intended flight from Geneva to Munich. I had no option I slept in the airport without knowing if my baggages were in Geneva or sent to Munich because I didn’t find there in Geneva and the next day when I arrived in Munich my baggages were not there. I reported immediately on 29 June 2022 to the respective unit, but till now no updates information of my baggages since 29June 2022. I have incurred a lot of expenses I had to buy everything new.
    They don’t pick phone calls or reply email or what’s App. Bad experience ever. I have intention to sue the company if I work with their agent whom I booked the flight tickets.
    This is not fair at all people incurred costs because of the negligence of the company and we have paid for the flight.

  7. July8th, Schiphol Airport was the most horrific experience I have ever gone through. Never were we able to locate anyone who was able to help us. The main building was flooded with thousands of passengers trying to find their way, each carrying luggage, bumping into one another trying to untangle this mess. The entrance into building 2 was extremely long and disorganized. Once we entered the building we went to priority luggage check only to see an employee pack her belongings and leave her desk. This left only one person to check our luggage. To make matters worse, the luggage belt broke down an was unable to handle the intake of luggage. We have still not received our luggage.

  8. Before I start, I am not complaining about the long lines or the fact that I had missed my flight because of the 5 hour security line.
    I am complaining about the rudeness of the staff here. There seems to be zero empathy for travelers here. And there’s always a condescending tone that the staff spoke to us in when we were just requesting some information about flights and rebooking. We saw the same staff behavior with other travelers as well. I understand that the staff is stretched thin, but that still doesn’t excuse their behavior.

    The worst encounter with a staff member here was in the tax refund office. We had bought some souvenirs for about 70 euros in Amsterdam and wanted to get tax refund in duty free. The staff member wouldn’t accept our receipt because of a lack of item description on the receipt. And I had argued that this was the receipt I was given at the store and tried showing him the items. Then the employee made a racist comment saying “you guys are getting smarter at scamming”. I was fuming so hard to at I had to walk away before I said anything else.

    Amsterdam is a beautiful city and if I visit it again I will be sure to never fly through this airport again.

  9. Still appalling. It’s not just a lack of staff. The baggage screening machines work at a snails pace. But they cost money so will keep on using them. Sky Priority, fast track and business class made no difference. 3.5 hours stood in lines.

  10. Totally shocked. I once lived in NL for 8 years and as a frequent flyer found Schiphol to be one of the most efficient in Europe. Prior to COVID I visited twice a year. This was my first flight since 2019; a return flight to Bristol at 17.40 I was advised to arrive three hours early, and I needed it all. Two and a half hours from train to gate. Roughly twice as bad as anything I experienced in (inefficient) UK. Absolutely unacceptable. AT 68 with a bad hip, I thought I would collapse. No way will I be returning until this is resolved.

  11. Really bad experience at Schiphol today. Arrived in good time for my flight to Dublin. First problem was security check. The security stations were all closed ! Seriously. I think it may have been because there was a huge logjam after security at Passport Control. But nobody was telling the passengers (I.e.the customers) in the security queue what was going on. Eventually they reopened and we got thro a ridiculously stringent security check. Then into the queue for passport control which was never-ending. As my wife is Non EEA we had to queue for ‘all other passports’ where it seemed the two officials on duty were in training / being observed. We were in danger of missing our flight until I spoke to a staff member that allowed us to join a crew / VIP Queue. We got through and raced to our gate only to find there was no aircraft there as the flight was delayed by 90 minutes and the outbound aircraft hadn’t yet departed from Dublin ! But nobody in management thought to update the departures screen to tells the passengers/ customers !! It was like a circus being run by the clowns there today. Maybe too much ganja in the Amsterdam air? I won’t be revisiting that airport again any time soon. Shame on the people responsible for (mis)managing this airport.

  12. Just transmitted through Schiphol en route to Manchester. It is shambolic! The transit security queue took over an hour and staff are continually pulling passengers out the queue to an alternative queue otherwise they would miss their flights! Only 3 customs guys working with 5 booths vacant. Self-checking system constantly breaking down. Horrified to see similar complaints dating back to Autumn 2022. Get it sorted Schiphol!!!!

  13. Just went thru passport self check and it took four times to scan my passport and take picture. Don’t dare wave any of the useless security men over, that’s seen as rude! Screw you! In all took almost 2.5hrs to get thru security. What a total joke of a system!!!

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