Ed Berrevoets: Tightness in the industry

The national airport has to deal with understaffing, as it turned out. At KLM, some of the staff went on strike for a day, which added to the unrest and crowds. It is extremely annoying for all those travelers who finally thought they were going on holiday again after two years.

The following weekend, airlines were asked to cancel flights. Because the airport hasn’t solved the problem yet. It is probably not possible to solve this in a week, but these measures are very draconian.

Surprisingly, it apparently came as a complete surprise. The booking systems show weeks before departure how many passengers have been booked and where they are departing from or flying to. That couldn’t have been a surprise. So it could also be communicated earlier that it would become too busy. Then you can also inform travelers in advance, instead of having them suffocate in line at Schiphol.

For months, if not years, we’ve been hearing that unemployment is at its lowest point in decades. Despite the many millions of euros in government support, many employees left for other companies, because demand in the travel industry had almost completely dried up. The graphs of that time show a sharp downward line. That is why many companies needed this support: you can cope with changing demand, but not if it happens at such a pace and to such a large extent.

After most restrictions were lifted, the Netherlands again booked its trips abroad en masse and… abroad came again en masse to the Netherlands. The last passenger will also leave for home after some time, so that they too contribute to the crowds. The recovery curve up is almost as steep as the line that went down in 2020. And there is no support available to deal with this problem. But all the departed employees are gone. The same applies to the catering industry, where restaurants often still only run at half capacity, because they cannot find staff.

The worst is yet to come. There is a big domino effect here. This occurs not only at travel organizations and airports, but also at airlines, rental companies and hotels. That Schiphol asks airlines not to come is absurd. The airlines have long classified their routes and slots, including necessary catering, aircrew and kerosene. Not just flying or landing somewhere else with the announcement a day in advance is hardly possible to organize. And it also leads to even more angry and disappointed passengers.

The airlines also have insufficient staff to meet the demand in the short term. Try to get in touch with their customer service. The waiting time can be up to an hour. So you get complaints about the complaint that has been pending for so long. And so the complaints increase, while they have no capacity to deal with them acceptably. Refunds or special requests all take much longer than for Corona.

Then we also have to deal with high inflation and strong wage increases and… more expensive oil and kerosene. The latter effect is yet to materialise, because large companies usually buy and fix oil prices six months in advance, but after that period it is unavoidable that the fuel surcharges will be cut.

In addition to Schiphol, there are similar problems at other airports. Last weekend, approximately 12,000 passengers were asked to cancel their flight, for reasons of safety at Schiphol. Similar requests have been made at London Heathrow and other airports in Europe are also facing this problem. It seems inevitable that soon there will be a lot more to pay for the services in our industry, while you will receive a much lesser service than before. There is hardly an alternative, because the same problem occurs everywhere in our industry, also outside Europe. The high season for holidays threatens to bring just as much pressure and the problems are really not solved yet.

Ed Berrevoets is Managing Director at VCK Travel and writes in his own title

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