This is the Voice... of Schiphol
“Attention please, passengers for KLM flight 325 to Athens will board via gate D15”; “For taxis, please follow the signs to the official taxi stand.” Every day, some 350 public announcements are made at our airport. But who is actually doing the announcing? Meet Meike Baart-Verhaest: the voice of Schiphol for the last 39 years.
Even though she retired quite a few years ago, Meike’s voice can still be heard at Schiphol 24/7. Truth be told, she’s rather proud of that fact. Meike worked as an announcer for Airport Information from 1978 to 2005. All announcements used to be live: announcers would use a booklet with standard phrases in four languages to broadcast all the messages.
Today, things are quite different. These days, only announcements which include a person's name are still live. This is because we have been using automated broadcasting at Schiphol since 1998. A native speaker was selected for each language and his or her voice was then digitised. That involved recording the person saying many different words with a variety of intonations. So now, when an announcement is required, the system automatically forms grammatically correct sentences and broadcasts them.
Flemish? You don’t say!
For messages in Dutch, that means Meike’s voice is used. Which is actually pretty funny, since Meike grew up in Ghent, Belgium. Our Dutch native speaker is technically Flemish! Meike’s voice can be heard everywhere at Schiphol, from the moving walkways to the lift areas. And Schiphol isn’t the only place you can hear her voice. Many airports in other countries rely on the same broadcasting system. As a result, you might just hear our very own ‘voice of Schiphol’ at Delhi Airport!
Find (or rather listen for) the differences
In addition to Meike, Schiphol still employs around 60 other announcers for those messages that cannot be automated. There’s a good chance that passengers like yourself won’t be able to tell them apart, as all our announcers speak with more or less the same diction and intonation. They work in alternating two-hour shifts to avoid straining their voices. When they're not announcing, you can find them at one of the seven information desks at Schiphol.