Christmas? We’ll be working right through it!
‘I’ll be home for Christmas’, Bing Crosby sang in 1943. But that doesn’t apply to everyone. While some people are sitting down to Christmas dinner with their family or in-laws, others are headed to work as usual. After all, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol never takes a day off. Our airport operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And that includes Christmas day. We paid a visit to a few of these hard workers.
Hoping it won’t be a white Christmas
Jack Franssen, marshaller: ‘Working on Christmas isn’t that different from any other day, although we all get together to make things a bit more festive. I prepare a mini-Christmas dinner at home, with stewed beef, rosemary potatoes and vegetables, and bring it to my colleagues at work. That way, we still get to enjoy a little holiday cheer when we take a break for dinner. 25 December sees about 30% fewer aircraft land and depart, so the group of marshallers on duty is smaller than usual. Unless it turns out to be a white Christmas, that is – then we call in all our colleagues, because we’re the ones who direct the snow squads and drive the snow trucks that lead the fleet. Then we’re out there with hundreds of colleagues to make sure the runways stay clear of ice and snow. No matter how picturesque it may look, I never hope for a white Christmas. That way, all my colleagues who have the day off can stay at home and enjoy Christmas with their families.’
Having dinner with the family
Marianne de Kruif, Schiphol Fire Brigade: ‘In the fire brigade, we work 24-hour shifts. That means I’ll spend all of Boxing Day at Schiphol. We’re typically less busy than usual: because of the holiday, we only do what’s strictly necessary, such as testing the fire engines. We always cook our own meals in the fire brigade, and Christmastime is no different. Family members are allowed to visit in the afternoon, because – unlike other employees who work on Christmas – we can’t stay home for part of the day. What’s on the menu? Sometimes we all prepare our own food on a tabletop grill, sometimes we split into groups to prepare different courses for the meal. But in any event, we always remain alert. Because whether it's Christmas or not, if something happens, we in the fire brigade are suited up and headed out in 45 seconds or less.’
Flying home for Christmas
Laurens Fernhout, member of Airport Information staff: ‘I’m actually working the entire Christmas period this year, so no Christmas dinner for me. But I don’t mind, really! I love working on those days. There’s something quite special about Christmas at Schiphol. All those passengers travelling home for the holidays – it’s quite remarkable. ‘Driving home for Christmas’ by Chris Rea becomes something of a soundtrack for our airport around that time. Except of course, at Schiphol, it’s ‘Flying home’. There’s a great deal of cheer and camaraderie among the passengers as well: everybody wishes one another a merry Christmas. But of course there are also passengers who, due to whatever circumstances, end up stranded at Schiphol – and that is especially disappointing during the holidays. I'm almost tempted to tell those people: “hey, come celebrate Christmas at my place, we’ll make a good time of it”.’