Dutch officials have announced that the cap on passenger numbers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport will be maintained throughout September and October as it struggles to staff one of Europe’s main air hubs.
The daily limit on passengers will be held at 69,500 beyond the summer season to cope with long waiting times and other logistical issues.
Schiphol said on Tuesday it would also maintain other measures, such as asking passengers to show up no more than four hours before their flights.
Schiphol agreed to pay 15,000 cleaners, baggage handlers and security staff €5.25 ($5.50) extra per hour during the summer, but recruitment efforts continue to fall short of what is required.
The airport said it had warned airlines that it expects to have too many passengers to handle during the Dutch school holidays in late October.
The cap is a gateway to a new normal as Infrastructure Minister Mark Harbers believes that the airport will shift away from catering for cheaper airline operations.
A capacity cap to be imposed next year means the airport will no longer be focused on luring passengers seeking the cheapest connecting flights between other cities without visiting the Netherlands, Mr Harbers said.
“That’s no longer what this Cabinet is aiming for,” he said in The Hague. “Schiphol has raised the rates for the airlines, but we are also going to raise the flight tax. Through these measures you know that Schiphol will no longer be a cheap island.”
Schiphol, which has been one of Western Europe’s four major airports for decades, plans to limit flights to 440,000 a year from November 2023, according to a government announcement last month. That is 20 per cent below the level that top user KLM says is needed and marks one of the first instances of an airport being actively reduced in status for environmental reasons.
Dutch policymakers previously sought to make Amsterdam a global transfer hub, helping to turn Schiphol and KLM into far bigger players than if they served the Netherlands alone. The airport is especially popular with Britons as an alternative to traveling via London Heathrow.
The airline, part of Paris-based Air France-KLM, has previously said that cutting services would risk undermining Amsterdam’s status as a hub and therefore reducing the number of viable destinations.
Air-freight services may also be at risk, according to ACN, the Dutch air-cargo association. The capacity cap will lead to a reduction of as much as 15 per cent in full-freighter flights and could ultimately lead to the expulsion of freight operators, association director Maarten van As said.
Mr Harbers believes Schiphol’s hub status is guaranteed with more than 400,000 flights a year.
Schiphol Airport and staff shortages put heavy pressure on operations, especially in May and June, but Air France-KLM beat quarterly expectations with a return to profit in both core and net income.