‘Sitting around and smelling the roses isn't for us’

You might have already spotted them at the airport: the Welcome@Schiphol team. 38 retired Schiphol staff are working as volunteers to answer any questions the passengers may have, and we spent a shift with them.

‘Sir, do you know where the baggage drop-off is?’ Rens Jaspers produces his iPhone, consults the Schiphol app, and in no time at all he directs the passenger to the right location. ‘That's what I like so much about the Welcome@Schiphol team: I get to help a lot of passengers and that makes me feel good.’

Back at work

At 82, Rens is the oldest volunteer on the team, having previously held various jobs at the airport from publicity to working in the Board's secretariat . He retired in 1992 after having worked at Schiphol for 34 years, but he is very happy to be back at work after such a long time. Although the shift begins at 7 a.m., those early starts do not bother Rens at all. ‘They mean I get to have dinner with my wife on time in the evening; the potatoes are on the table at 6 p.m., you know... My wife really likes it too, it gives her time to do things for herself.’

Just like Joris Linssen

Joop Haspels (64) is also enthusiastic about the Welcome@Schiphol team. The former Schiphol firefighter couldn't bring himself to go without the airport just yet. ‘It's a very unusual world, there's always something going on.’ Helping people is what he did with the fire department, and now he gets to help passengers. ‘People do tend to get a bit stressed when they travel, so they really appreciate our personal assistance.’ And anyone who speaks to that many passengers in a single day also gets to hear some unusual stories. ‘Sometimes I only need to ask where the flight is going and people end up telling me all kinds of personal things about their life. It makes me feel just like [TV presenter] Joris Linssen’, says Joop with a smile.

Walking encyclopaedia

The volunteers are being asked all kinds of questions during their shift: where the gate is, whether they can get an Irish beer anywhere (at 8 am), how to get to the baby room… For Rens and Joop, it feels like less of an obligation and more of a hobby: that's how much they enjoy the Welcome@Schiphol team. The programme will continue until 1 May 2017, and if it is extended, Rens and Joop will still be there. ‘Sitting around and smelling the roses isn't for us; and anyway, the roses will still be there a couple of years down the line.’