Evaluation of May and summer holidays 2022 'motivation to improve Schiphol'
The evaluation carried out by PwC Strategy& in view of the 2022 May and summer holidays is an extra motivation for Schiphol to make structural improvements to the airport. This is the message CEO Ruud Sondag has expressed in a letter to Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management. Schiphol shared the evaluation with the Minister of I&W today.
In the letter, CEO Ruud Sondag writes to the minister that Schiphol has a plan to make structural improvements and that PwC's recommendations support this plan. In the 2023 May holiday, travellers experienced a good journey from Schiphol, showing that the measures that have been taken are effective.
At the same time, Sondag says that there is still a lot of work to do: "We can make fast improvements in some areas. We saw that during the May holiday. However, some problems have deeper roots and finding the solutions for them will take time. Everyone at Schiphol feels a strong drive to do things better every day. We continue to work extremely hard to ensure short waiting times for travellers, good service for airlines, good working conditions, better infrastructure and a healthy future."
Chairman Jaap Winter of the Supervisory Board: “The report provides insight into the complexity of the problems Schiphol found itself in due to the exceptionally rapid scaling up after the Covid period, which has had far-reaching consequences for aviation and the airport. The report contributes to the insights of the Management Board and the Supervisory Board that the ecosystem at the airport must be fundamentally strengthened, with greater concern for people's working conditions, the living environment around Schiphol and the state of our infrastructure. This provides a clear agenda for the future that requires tight, operational management with sound financial parameters.”
The full letter from Ruud Sondag to Minister Harbers can be found below. The PwC evaluation (in Dutch) can be downloaded on the right-hand side of this page.
Letter from Schiphol CEO Ruud Sondag to Minister Harbers
2022 was not a good year for Schiphol Airport: long queues, flight cancellations, dissatisfied travellers. Schiphol did not offer its travellers the service they expect. This must not be allowed to happen again. Schiphol asked PwC Strategy& (hereafter: PwC) to carry out an external evaluation of this period and to make recommendations for improvement. At your request, your Ministry participated in the assignment description.
The conclusions are obvious: the whole system – from security to handling – came close to breaking point during the spring and summer of 2022. Operational bottlenecks at Schiphol and chain partners were not entirely new, but they painfully came to the surface in these months. The airport process, especially after a two-year pandemic and a wildcat strike at the beginning of the May holidays that resulted in passengers arriving at the airport earlier and earlier, was yet to prove shockproof. From that moment on, normal operations at Schiphol were severely disrupted. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was very uncertain to what extent and when demand for aviation would return. In 2022, the demand for aviation rose sharply. The number of travellers grew by 324% compared to the first half of 2021.
The report is in line with the insight that Schiphol has become increasingly aware of in recent months. That insight is that, for a long time, there was too little attention to three fundamental issues: the quality of work for everyone working at the airport, care for our environment and the quality of our infrastructure and buildings. Quantity took precedence over quality and that has not been advantageous for working conditions, the enjoyment of life in the surrounding area and the state of our terminal and everything in it. Regarding the quality of work and the quality of our living environment, you know our action plan and we are working on it with vigour. We will soon present our plans regarding investments in the terminal. These plans consist of catching up on significant maintenance backlogs, improve and renew our infrastructure and improving working conditions. All this so that we can deliver more quality to travellers, airlines and employees.
The report of PwC underlines the need for structural change in the system of managing the airport and aviation, and in the direction Schiphol has taken. For too long, and for various reasons, the main focus has been on low costs and not enough attention has been paid to investing in people and infrastructure. Schiphol can no longer and does not want to be just a management organisation. Schiphol wants to take on a broader role. As far as Schiphol is concerned, the emphasis in recent years on cost efficiency and competition, which was partly brought about by government policies, laws and regulations, has gone too far. Partly because of this context, the enormous drop in reliability at Schiphol turned out to be difficult to repair.
The report describes the situation starting around one year ago and focuses on what, according to the investigators, can be improved. The purpose was not to identify all the consequences of the pandemic on aviation and Schiphol, nor to pass judgement on Schiphol's actions. The investigators found that the organisation intervened quickly and appropriately on some points by, for example, reaching an agreement with the unions, but that the underlying problems were too major to resolve in a short time.
Schiphol therefore came up with an action agenda to structurally tackle the underlying problems. Schiphol started working on that last year. In the run-up to the May holiday we reinforced our efforts and will continue to do so in the coming period. In the 2023 May holiday, travellers experienced a good journey from Schiphol. That demonstrates that the measures we took have worked and makes us confident about the summer season. Prior to this period, extensive work was done to recruit new colleagues, improve working terms and conditions, and improve mutual cooperation in the sector. On top of that we put a lot of time and energy into maintaining our equipment, such as the security filters, elevators and baggagesystem. This improved the performance of our infrastructure. All in all, our employees and partners deserve a big compliment.
At the same time, we realise that we are not there yet. More needs to be done in order to structurally resolve the operational problems and regain the trust of travellers, airlines and society. We can make fast improvements in some areas. We saw that during the May holiday. However, some problems have deeper roots and finding the solutions for them will take time. Such as the extremely competitive market for handlers at Schiphol, the challenges in terms of working conditions and the state of our infrastructure. We face great challenges, but our ambition to find a solution is also great. This is at the top of our agenda and we are working on it day in, day out. Everyone at Schiphol feels a strong drive to do things better every day. We continue to work extremely hard to ensure short waiting times for travellers, good service for airlines, good conditions of employment for everyone who works at Schiphol and a healthy future.
The new direction Schiphol has taken is more than just operational improvement. It is also about a cleaner, quieter and better Schiphol. A place that continues to connect the Netherlands with the rest of the world, but with noticeably less impact on people and the environment. A future-proof airport that the Netherlands can be proud of and where people get enjoyment and satisfaction out of their work.
I hereby present this report to you. Should you require further explanation, I am more than willing to do so in person.
With kind regards,
ROYAL SCHIPHOL GROUP