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Inside Schiphol Airport’s Turnaround: Key Strategies and Initiatives

Impressive Revival of Schiphol in the First Six Months of 2023

Royal Schiphol Group’s Mid-Year Performance in 2023

In the first half of 2023, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport embarked on a notable turnaround journey, positively impacting its passengers, employees, and future strategic initiatives. The period saw passengers again enjoying a satisfactory travel experience while the airport redoubled its efforts to enhance the working environment. 

A significant development that shaped the first six months was the introduction of a detailed plan by Schiphol to become quieter, cleaner, and more efficient. This reflects a commitment to sustainability and improving the overall airport experience

The Group’s underlying net result for the first six months stood at 44 million euros, indicating a healthy financial performance. Still, despite increased passenger figures compared to the previous year, the aviation segment reported a loss, primarily attributed to elevated operational costs.

Schiphol Group’s CEO, Ruud Sondag said of the results: “First and foremost, our focus was to provide passengers a pleasant journey again during the holiday season. I think for now it is fair to say we have achieved this and everyone at Schiphol can be proud of that. However, we are not there yet. For the sake of passengers, we and our partners have to keep improving.” 

Improving Various Aspects at Schiphol

The turnaround at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol extends beyond merely revamping the short-term passenger experience. It encompasses a broader scope, including efforts to mitigate nuisance, enhance working conditions, and implement a strategic long-term investment plan to bolster the airport’s overall quality.

As Sondag explains: “The new standard for Schiphol is that we put our money where our mouth is. In a short period of time we have substantially improved the experience of passengers, improved rest areas for employees, ordered nearly fifty lifting aids, made the decision to build a new, modern baggage basement and presented eight decisions that will lead to quieter, cleaner and better aviation. Quality over low cost. Quality has a fair price and we have outlined this during the ongoing conversations with every partner involved.” 

Schiphol’s Aviation Traffic Overview

In a remarkable turnaround, Royal Schiphol Group’s airports in the Netherlands experienced a 22% surge in passenger traffic during the first half of 2023. The total number of passengers reached an impressive 33.2 million, a significant leap from the 27.3 million recorded in the same period in 2022. 

Passenger Statistics (in millions)

 Amsterdam Airport SchipholEindhoven AirportRotterdam The Hague AirportTotal
HY 202328.
HY 202223.82.70.827.3
HY 20215.
HY 202013.11.10.314.5
HY 201934.

In the first half of 2023, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol recorded a notable upturn, with 206,198 air traffic movements. This figure represents a 9% surge compared to the same period in the preceding year, which saw 189,506 air traffic movements. Nevertheless, the current tally remains 15% lower than the pre-COVID-19 figures from 2019, which stood at 242,107 air traffic movements. 

Despite this resurgence in air traffic movements, Schiphol’s cargo volumes experienced a slight dip. Volumes decreased by 6%, settling at 0.7 million tonnes for the year’s first half. 

Air traffic movements are a significant indicator of the airport’s activity level, reflecting the number of aircraft taking off and landing during a specific period.

Air traffic movements

 Amsterdam Airport SchipholEindhoven AirportRotterdam The Hague AirportTotal
HY 2023206,19820,0427,582233,822
HY 2022189,50618,3146,413214,233
HY 202186,0373,74569090,472
HY 2020115,9528,3382,514126,804
HY 2019242,10719,8647,902269,873

An Insight into the Customer Experience at Schiphol, by NPS

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has seen a notable turnaround in passenger satisfaction, as indicated by its recent Net Promoter Score (NPS). The months of May, June, and July of this year have witnessed a marked improvement in scores compared to the same period in the previous year. This comes after a challenging period last year when operational difficulties led to a severe dip in the airport’s NPS scores. The current customer experience ratings are now nearing the levels seen during the summer of 2019 – a testament to the airport’s efforts to improve its services. For instance, the NPS score in July 2019 was 44; in July 2023, it was recorded at 39, indicating a significant recovery.

*due to COVID-19 there was no data between March and July 2020.

Examining the Financial Performance of Schiphol Group

The financial landscape for Schiphol has undergone a significant transformation in the first half of 2023. The net result reveals an impressive turnaround, with a positive figure of 44 million euros. This contrasts sharply with the loss of 29 million euros experienced in the same period of 2022. 

Key financials

EUR millionHY 2023HY 2022%
Underlying EBITDA21816333.7
Underlying operating result592>100
Underlying result44-29<100
Source: Schiphol Group

Outlook for the Full Year 2023

The Royal Schiphol Group has seen a promising resurgence in passenger traffic during the first half of 2023. This is a welcome turn-around following the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The upward trajectory is projected to persist throughout the rest of the year. The positive travel experience during the May vacation season significantly contributed to this recovery. This is a time usually marked by high traffic volumes. The Group remains committed to enhancing its airports’ travel experience and operational efficiency. 

Looking ahead to the conclusion of 2023, Schiphol’s management expects the total passenger traffic in Amsterdam will be around 60 to 64 million. The forecasted number of flights for the full year is between 430,000 and 445,000. Despite the prevailing inflationary pressures, consumer expenditure on air travel has shown remarkable resilience in the first half of 2023, buoyed by a strong latent demand. Nonetheless, the issue of economic uncertainty continues to loom. 

Significant Developments in the First Half of 2023 at Schiphol 

Management Changes at Royal Schiphol Group 

Effective from 1st February, the Royal Schiphol Group initiated changes to their management structure in a bid to drive more efficient leadership. The transformation involved broadening the Board of Management into an Executive Team charged with overseeing the company’s operations. The new team comprises Ruud Sondag (CEO), Robert Carsouw (CFO), Patricia Vitalis (Operations), Sybren Hahn (Asset Management), Arthur Reijnhart (Commercial), and Esmé Valk (HR). 

Appointments to the Supervisory Board 

The shareholders of Royal Schiphol Group confirmed the appointment of Medy van der Laan and Chris Figee as members of the Supervisory Board during a meeting held on 11th April. Their appointment is set to last four years. Furthermore, Robert Jan van de Kraats was reappointed for a third one-year term to facilitate a seamless transition. 

Initiatives for More Sustainable Aviation 

Eight-Point Plan 

Schiphol unveiled an eight-point plan to promote quieter, cleaner, and more sustainable aviation in April. The plan includes restricting aircraft take-offs and landings between midnight and early morning. They will also abolish the second Kaagbaan Runway and bar private jets and noisier aircraft. This initiative should reduce noise pollution for local residents

Land Release for Second Kaagbaan Runway 

A decision by the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management to release land initially reserved for a possible second Kaagbaan Runway was well-received by Schiphol. This action benefits the local community and aligns with the eight-point plan proposed by Schiphol. 

Improvements in Passenger Services and Operations 

Pre-booked Security Check Time Slots 

From April, passengers could freely reserve time slots for the security check at Schiphol. Initially, this service was only available to passengers flying within the Schengen Zone. However, since July, all passengers have been able to utilize this service. 

Smooth Operations during the May 2023 Holiday

The May 2023 holiday period, a crucial test for the summer season, went smoothly. There were no significant operational disruptions and only minor capacity regulations. From May 15, all capacity restrictions were removed. This allowed Schiphol to operate at full capacity and meet all air travel demands

Infrastructure Developments 

Renewal and Innovation of Baggage Basements 

Schiphol announced plans for the refurbishment and innovation of its baggage basements. This includes preparations for constructing a new baggage basement equipped with an innovative handling system. It is expected to ensure operational continuity for passengers and airlines while enhancing the working conditions of baggage employees. Construction is slated to start in 2026. 

Improvements in Working Conditions and Sustainability Efforts 

New Technologies for Baggage Handling

Schiphol is working with baggage handling companies to adopt two new technologies to improve the work environment in the baggage handling hall. These include a suitcase-lifting robot and new lifting aids for baggage employees. 

Measures to Minimize Emission Exposure 

Schiphol is implementing a comprehensive package of measures intended to minimize employee exposure to emissions from diesel and aircraft engines. This includes replacing all diesel-powered equipment on the airside and removing emission sources on the apron. They also increase the distance between emission sources and employees. Schiphol is conducting experimental research into improving air quality on the apron. 

Action Plan to Reduce APU Use

Schiphol submitted an action plan to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) to decrease the use of auxiliary power units (APU) by aircraft parked on the apron. This step contributes to healthier working conditions for apron workers and reduces CO2 emissions from aviation as a whole. 

Strategic Cooperation with Maastricht Aachen Airport (MAA) 

On 8 June 2023, strategic cooperation began between the Royal Schiphol Group and Maastricht Aachen Airport (MAA). With this agreement, Schiphol acquired a 40% stake in MAA, while the province of Limburg retained a 60% stake. Both parties are dedicated to developing MAA into a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and future-proof airport for passengers and cargo.

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