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How bad is it at European airports? Airlines are now flying in their own luggage handlers

July 14, 2022
4 min read
airplane landing
How bad is it at European airports? Airlines are now flying in their own luggage handlers
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Icelandair has taken the staffing crisis at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) into its own hands — by sending staff members from its homeland to personally unload passengers’ luggage at the troubled hub.

The Icelandic flag carrier said it had been sending teams of luggage handlers into the Dutch airport all weekend to help ease pressure on the staff there; this is also to ensure its flights and passenger experience all run smoothly.

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“We have been sending people ourselves out to smooth over the bag problems that have come up,” Icelandair’s information officer, Ásdís Ýr Pétursdóttir, told Icelandic broadcaster RUV. “Since last Friday, we have added two bag handlers to our crew to Amsterdam to speed things up and keep planes on time.”

Like many of its European counterparts, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has suffered under the staffing crisis that has swept the commercial aviation industry.

Last month, the airport set a cap on the number of passengers it can cope with, limiting the number of travelers permitted to pass through its gates to 70,000 a day. That’s about 16% — or 13,500 seats per day — less than airlines had planned for.

Related: Chaos at Amsterdam mars an otherwise fantastic business-class flight on KLM’s Dreamliner

“You might be thinking: Schiphol had many more travelers before the pandemic, so why is it such a challenge now?" the airport staff wrote in a blog post last updated seven days ago.

“That’s because there is currently a shortage of staff at Schiphol and at the handling companies responsible for check-in and for your luggage … We currently do not have enough colleagues to enable travelers to go through the necessary checks as quickly as you are accustomed to here at Schiphol.”

As a result, long lines and delays in reuniting passengers with luggage have plagued the airport for months.

Related: Don’t check your bag until you read this: 7 tips to help keep an airline from losing your luggage

Last weekend, in a bid to hurry the process for its own customers, Icelandair became the first airline to take matters into its own hands.

Pétursdóttir said Icelandair had dispatched bag handlers on all flights to Amsterdam on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, adding that the decision had worked out well so far.

“We will have to see how it develops and whether we carry this on, and even maybe to other destinations,” Pétursdóttir added. “As I say, we are trying to find ways to reduce the effects of these delays and minimize disruption to the journeys of our passengers.”

The news raises the serious question of whether other airlines may soon begin to do the same across Europe — where long lines are becoming commonplace in terminals across the continent.

Related: 7 steps to take when an airline loses your luggage

Heathrow Airport (LHR), in particular, has struggled with its own luggage handling services of late. Last month, the hub even asked airlines to cancel 10% of their flights while it dealt with a “luggage mountain” that had grown in one of its terminals.

It comes after Dutch flag carrier KLM revealed plans to cancel between 10 and 20 daily round-trip flights across Europe between now and the end of August.

After facing major challenges at its Amsterdam Airport Schiphol base, the Dutch giant is streamlining services until Aug. 28 in hopes of countering “operational challenges” at the airport.

In addition to the cuts, KLM announced it will “strongly restrict the sale of remaining seats on KLM and KLM Cityhopper flights to European destinations"; this is to ensure space for stricken passengers who may need to be rebooked onto a later flight.

Featured image by Airplane landing on Schiphol airport in Amsterdam in the Netherlands at sunset. (Photo by Nisangha via Getty Images.)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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