The Airport Ministry – 'corona intensifies our grief'


Our airport ministry is there for people in need at the airport – and they need us even more at this time. “Corona intensifies our grieving process. This adds even more stress and sadness if people are already in a difficult situation”. Mark Hafkenscheid talks about his work as Chaplain on behalf of the Anglican and Old-Catholic Church at Schiphol.


Travelling for days on end to get home
“There are still people around the world who would do anything to be able to fly home. To fly home to their families, loved ones and friends, at whatever cost. Schiphol's strength is that we are a hub – many people have connecting flights at our airport. But transferring to a connecting flight has become very complicated during these trying times. I recently met a Malaysian man who was immediately send back to Amsterdam upon arrival in Singapore. He also had to return to Berlin via Schiphol because he had initially transferred here. He had been on the road for 2 days and was completely exhausted. I arranged a hotel for him so he could get some rest. There are also many more people attempting trans-Atlantic travel. They get stuck due to all the rules that are currently in place, so we are here to support them.

Sadness is even more intense
​Distance is the greatest challenge that we face as we work today. There are so many times when you just want to be there for someone or put a hand on their shoulder – but that is not possible now. We used to escort travellers to the plane to ensure they were safe and sound in the hands of the flight crew, which we also cannot now do. If families are reunited with each other after the death of a family member abroad, we cannot ensure that they have the peace and space to hold each other again for the first time. That simply cannot happen and is not allowed at this time. The sadness is there, but corona intensifies it, which I think is very difficult.

Time for reflection
These are extraordinary times. The situation is unsettling for everyone – travellers, airlines, Schiphol and governments around the world. Everything has frozen in time for a moment. There is more time for reflection. You appreciate each other more and you see how well we have arranged measures in the Netherlands. There is more time to talk to each other and that makes this time quite special – not that it should take a lot longer! At some point we will have had enough of that again too and flying will become more of a priority again.