Schiphol’s CEO quits following months of travel chaos

Dick Benschop, the President Director and CEO of Royal Schiphol Group which operates Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS), has resigned following months of travel chaos at caused by flight cancellations and staff shortages. 

The company’s board accepted the resignation and has begun looking for a successor, the company announced on September 15, 2022. Benschop will remain in office until a replacement is appointed.  

Amsterdam Schiphol has been hit hard by staff shortages, leading to long passenger queues, multiple flight delays and cancellations.   

Benschop acknowledged that the travel disruption played a major role in his decision to step down from the role of CEO. However, he also highlighted that it was his decision to step down, not the board’s.  

“A lot of attention, and criticism, has been directed towards the way in which Schiphol is tackling the problems and my responsibility as CEO,” Benschop is cited as saying in the company’s statement.   

“On my own initiative, I am giving Schiphol the space to make a new start. I do not want the attention on me as an individual to become an obstacle for Schiphol,” Benschop said.  

Travel chaos at Amsterdam Schiphol  

Struggling to cope with the strong surge in passenger demand for air travel following the COVID-19 crisis, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has been hit hard by staff shortages, especially among security staff.   

Since April 2022, flight cancellations and long passenger queues, sometimes stretching outside the terminal, have become a recurring issue at AMS.   

In its latest traffic update, the airport disclosed that passenger numbers grew by 324% compared to the first half of 2021 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol alone. The total passenger numbers are now expected to reach between 51 and 55 million for the full year 2022, with the number of flights expected to grow to between 392,000 and 413,000.  

So far, AMS’s attempts at smoothing operations have not been enough to distance itself from its troubles.  

On September 12, 2022, the airport asked several airlines to cancel flights between 16:00 and 23:00 (local time) on the day, citing security staff shortages.   

Departure caps, initially rolled out for July and August, were later extended thorough September and October 2022, but with little hope the measures would be enough. The airport still expects around 3,500 too many passengers a day during the two-week school vacation period in October 2022.   

A similar message has been echoed in the company’s statement announcing Benschop’s departure.  

Jaap Winter, chair of the Supervisory Board, describes the measure to stabilize the situation at Schiphol as “far-reaching” but says “this isn’t enough”. 

“Under Dick’s leadership, far-reaching measures were taken to stabilize the situation at Schiphol,” Winter is quoted as saying in the company’s statement.   

“Improvements were made during the summer, but this isn’t enough. Further intervention in the capacity and management of the security companies is necessary,” Winter added.  

On September 16, 2022, Schiphol’s crowd levels measurement indicates “a very busy day at the departures”, warning passengers about long queues that might extend to outside the terminal.   

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