Speech New Year's Reception 2019

Speech delivered by Dick Benschop, President & CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, New Year’s Reception, Schiphol, 7 January 2019.

Beste mensen, Ladies and Gentlemen - a Happy New Year to all of you and to your continued good health. On behalf of Birgit, Jabine, André and the entire Schiphol team, I wish you all the best for 2019. 

It will be a very important year for us all. Some big decisions will need to be made. Decisions that will define the future of Schiphol and of the Dutch aviation sector. 

Speaking of Dutch Aviation: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded 100 years ago, as well as the NLR – the Netherlands Aerospace Center. Congratulations to you both. And welcome to the ‘100 year’ club. 

2. A look back at 2018

Everyone worked hard in 2018 – and it’s our people who enabled the ‘Schiphol Experience’ and Operations to continue every day. Our colleagues in Projects helped to shape the Schiphol of tomorrow. Overall, 2018 was a solid year – even though many of us had to deal with a number of power cuts and data disruptions.

We took important steps in the area of safety. The Integral Safety Management System (ISMS), in collaboration with sector parties, has well-and-truly begun. Everyone can see what measures we took to further reduce risk by consulting the Schiphol Safety Improvement Roadmap. And it’s great to see that the number of runway incursions were decreased by a third: from 46 in 2017, down to 30 in 2018. However, there was a serious accident. [So it’s important that we] keep learning and not slip into complacency.

That last point is important, because 71 million people chose to travel through Schiphol in 2018 – which represented a growth of 3.7%. And we expect to welcome even more travellers again this year.

Schiphol’s overall NPS score for 2018 is 32. (a decreased when compared to 2017 - 34, in 2016, which was also 32).

We arrived at 499,500 flight movements, almost the same as last year. This is also our expectation for 2019.

Punctuality Inbound has improved by 3%. (2017 - 79% / 2018 - 82%)

Punctuality Outbound has improved by 2%. (2017 - 69% / 2018 - 71%)

Freight volumes decreased by 3.0% to 1.7 million tonnes. There is a clear decrease in the number of full freighter movements, along with growth of cargo in the hold. Air Cargo’s position needs attention. The full freighters struggle when there is a shortage of slots.

The total number of Schiphol’s direct destinations remained the same, at 326. A number of new destinations were added such as Orlando International, Alghero, Beirut, Eilat, Fortaleza, Mombassa and Växjö. At the same time, we also bid farewell to a number of destinations.

3. A record year for BAS

We have an absolute record year behind us ... also a record number of complaints! No less than 11,500 people attended the Bewoners Aanspreekpunt Schiphol (Schiphol Resident’s Point, or ‘BAS’) and indicated that they had experienced air traffic inconvenience. BAS received 3x as many complaints, reports and questions in 2018 when compared to 2017.

1,000 local residents had filed a complaint by Sunday 15 July, 2018. These were due to the Polderbaan being unavailable due to a road surface cave-in on the surface of the Victor roadway. The previous complain record was 636, which happened in 2014. Polderbaan was the cause back then, due to the Nuclear Security Summit.

I’m reading out figures, but I’m fully aware that these represent people who are telling us something. I had a number of living room conversations with Hans Alders, Michiel van Dorst and Rene de Groot. The dissatisfaction with rapid growth and nuisance is considerable. Nevertheless, I also find that there’s a willingness to talk about the balance. Oftentimes those meetings end with an encouraging shoulder tap and someone wishing me strength.

We are going to talk about our future in terms of quality, and not of quantity. Schiphol and the Schiphol system fulfil a public mission to serve Dutch society. We want to be Europe’s best hub airport and have a sustainable future. We express quality in three forms: quality of the networkquality of service and quality of living environment.

4. Quality of the network

Schiphol’s success and the success of Dutch aviation do not depend entirely on the number of flight movements. It’s also about connectivity, and our connections with the rest of the world. 

Schiphol and its airlines connect the Netherlands with 326 destinations worldwide. Our network is of great economic importance – it’s the goose that lays the golden eggs!

Our direct connections with China, the United States of America, and Japan, as well as Kenya for instance, provide routes for Dutch companies to operate abroad, as well as providing a means for many foreign companies to find the Netherlands and become established here. We invest in connections with emerging markets, like India. Space is needed for that.

But: what happens to the quality of the network if we can no longer invest in it? What then becomes the position of Dutch airlines? That is what is at stake in the coming period, [particularly] when making decisions about post-2020 development.

The sector is committed to a moderate and controlled development. The market requires more, but we see that moderation is necessary to restore the balance and reduce noise pollution. I hope that Hans Alders will be able to present broadly-supported advice about Schiphol’s development in connection with Lelystad this month. I am impressed by the efforts brought to the table by the parties and representatives' in their efforts to find a way forward – that fuses the minimum amount necessary (see the network, and KLM’s position) with the maximum of what’s achievable. I am very grateful to all the representatives for these efforts.

5. Quality of service 

Schiphol is known worldwide as a quality airport. We’re going to bring back that focus on quality. The current service level – at our capacity limit – is not our ‘new normal’. In the coming years, we will invest around 2 billion euros in facilities and in smarter, more innovative processes.

Visitors might notice something of a metamorphosis in Terminal 1. It’s business as usual during the day, but a mezzanine will take shape as it becomes a construction zone at night. The first contours of the A-Pier will become visible, and we are hard at work on the design of the new terminal. Decisions about station and land-based accessibility investments will be made this year.

Innovations like the digital information provisions, Seamless Flow and the new CT scan for security filters help with traveller flows and are highly valued by travellers. This all happens in collaboration with all other partners in the Schiphol system: the airlines, handling agents and government organisations. Schiphol’s excellent public-private partnership is a huge strength. For example, the KMAR(Royal Dutch Marechaussee) are working hard to tackle bottlenecks at border controls.

The motto for all these investments in a running operation: Schiphol is always ready but never complete.

6. Quality of the living environment

The airport needs to have a new relationship with the environment. The conversation with directors and residents is under way; yet it is clear that we have a lot more to do to regain confidence and restore the balance. For many it is: ‘we’ll have to see it to believe it’.

We have to explain what is happening here and the consequences that may have for our neighbours. And at the same time, we have to listen to what our neighbours say and experience. We have to conduct a dialogue to get closer together and to make Schiphol predictable again. We will take measures in the interests of residents; we’ll not just do what is allowed, but ask ourselves what is sensible.

I want to thereby break down walls and build bridges. Bridges between experience and the calculation of noise; between measurement and calculation. We will actively limit nuisance and invest in liveability by cooperating with our neighbouring municipalities. We will keep track and maintain control by continuing to explore new possibilities and analysing complaints. From now on, Schiphol employees’s remuneration will also depend on Schiphol's reputation among local residents.

There is also a positive note sounding at the same time. Many people in the area are gainfully employed. Not only at Schiphol itself, but also at the companies that establish themselves at and around the airport.

People from all backgrounds and educational levels have found jobs at Schiphol. That also contributes to the quality of the living environment, which is important for current and future generations.

7. Sustainability and innovation

We have marked our spot in the horizon: Schiphol wants to be the most sustainable hub airport in the world. The industry and ourselves are committed to cleaner and quieter aircraft, new and sustainable fuels and better flight routes and procedures. The new tariffs at Schiphol penalise dirt and noise, and reward clean and quiet.

We will work out the plan for each new horizon. We recognise the airlines’ investments in new aircraft (the Neo's, Max's and A350's), which have considerable improvements in environmental performance. A push is needed in the field of alternative fuels, starting with bio and followed by synthetic. A pilot plant for the production of synthetic fuel will be installed at Rotterdam The Hague Airport. There is a wonderful opportunity for the Dutch aviation knowledge sector and industry. The question is: how quickly can new aircraft types based on hybrid, electric and hydrogen be developed?

The question “why are you leading the way?” was asked at the climate agreement debate. If we are at the forefront of efficient measures, and in developing new technical solutions that Dutch companies can benefit from, it is in our interest to lead the way. That is why I am so disappointed that the new flight tax will not be used for innovation and sustainability – [those funds] would really do something. I will continue to insist upon this, even though it’s been called a dead horse in The Hague.

Many climate solutions go along with improvements to the living environment. New aircraft engines are more economical and quieter. New fuels drastically reduce particulate matter emissions. The same applies to electric vehicles; you may have seen last week's announcement for the electrification of airside handling. The smartest office building in Europe is in our vicinity: Microsoft. Schiphol is more than just an airport. It is a multimodal hub, where all forms of transport come together.

We also have to go into battle with the international train connections, both in terms of investment and service. We also have to make room for this at Schiphol.

For example, by extending the North-South line to Schiphol and Hoofddorp. If we can get many short distances travellers to use the metro, then we can make better use of the train tunnel for international connections. The question doesn’t have to be whether a North-South line is ever needed, but how quickly we can realise it. The hardest part has already been done.

8. Regional airports and international relations

Royal Schiphol Group is more than only Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We form a whole with the airports at Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Lelystad.

The Dutch Aviation industry must also develop as an entire system, including Groningen-Eelde and Maastricht.That type of cooperation is essential in maintaining our position in Europe.

We do not only exchange knowledge, but also across the border through our international participations. What we learn there, we apply here, and vice versa.

You can just hear it: the Schiphol team is full of ambition, and eager to take big steps in 2019.

9. Parting words (and a toast)

Schiphol is a magical place for us and for many other people. 

This is the place where we rise above ourselves. Where we challenge Newton's Laws to connect with other places on this earth. Places that we could only dream of in the past.

We fly to make dreams come true. And believe me – there is no pilot who wants to bully our neighbours when they accelerate to full speed. There’s no traveller who wants to be a burden on the ground. And none of our colleagues want to see fine dust particles blown into the air.

We want to fly up into the air in order to discover the world. To get wings. To look out of the window at the mountains, cities and oceans. To be able to do something that people always dream of: flying like a bird. And to enjoy that feeling of freedom. The realisation that we too can go anywhere we want to, through the air.

And that starts at Schiphol. That is the magic of this place. And I feel privileged to be part of that, along with you. And to that I would like to toast – to Schiphol!

Thank you very much!