Schiphol Airport chief Dick Benschop quits after months of chaos

The Netherlands' main airport has been plagued by delays, queues and cancellations

Long queues at Schiphol sometimes meant passengers had to wait outside the airport. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The chief executive at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has resigned after months plagued by cancelled flights, staff shortages and delayed passengers.

Dick Benschop’s departure came after Schiphol, Europe's second-largest airport, on Monday pleaded with airlines to cancel flights — the latest chaotic blot in a lengthy list of delays.

“There is a lot of attention, and also criticism, for the way in which Schiphol is tackling the problems and for my responsibility as CEO,” Mr Benschop said.

“I am making room on my own initiative to give Schiphol the space to make a new start. I do not want the attention [on me] to become an obstacle for Schiphol.”

Other airports across Europe have endured similar problems, sometimes caused by staff shortages and sometimes by strikes, over the summer.

The sector is trying to bounce back from Covid lockdowns as workers struggle to meet soaring inflation in many European nations and demand bigger pay rises.

Dick Benschop is leaving Schiphol, Europe's second-largest airport. AFP

Mr Benschop, a former politician and Shell executive, announced his resignation at a meeting of the Royal Schiphol Group’s supervisory board on Wednesday.

“He will remain in his function until a successor has been appointed,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Mr Benschop last month blamed the long queues over the summer, which caused many passengers to miss flights despite arriving hours before their scheduled departure, on staff shortages as the airline industry struggles to recover after the pandemic.

Baggage handlers earlier this year walked off the job in a strike and lost and unclaimed luggage is still a problem.

The airport reduced passenger numbers in an effort to bring down waiting times.

Schiphol paid staff bonuses for the busy summer months, but those will finish at the end of September.

“Improvements have been made over the summer, but these are not enough,” said Jaap Winter, chairman of Schiphol's supervisory board. He said further limitations on capacity may be necessary.

“As a national and international airport, Schiphol must return to the level of quality that passengers and airlines are accustomed to,” Mr Winter said.

Passenger numbers at Schiphol sank from more than 70 million in 2019 to 20.8 million in 2020, the first year of the pandemic and to 23 million last year.

In August, however, 5.2 million passengers passed through Schiphol's gates, up from 3.8 million in August 2021 and 1.8 million in August 2020.

Updated: September 15, 2022, 2:00 PM