KLM halts Amsterdam bookings for this weekend amid airport security delays

May 28, 2022

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Security wait times at one of Europe’s busiest airports have gotten so long that a major airline temporarily halted new reservations and offered options to travelers who may want to just stay home. Delays at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) have KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) putting the brakes on bookings through the weekend amid backups — a reminder that the U.S. is not the only country dealing with the impact of staffing shortages.

KLM officials told TPG that the carrier is capping the sale of new tickets for flights departing from Amsterdam through Sunday, May 29 (excluding premium bookings). The move is part of an effort by the airline “to create space” for customers who need to rebook after missing flights because they got caught waiting in long security lines. The airline described wait times as “much longer” than usual.

It’s a major problem at an airport that is the third busiest in the world for international passenger traffic, according to Airports Council International (ACI).

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Social media shows just how long the lines are with images of wall-to-wall crowds inside the airport and snaking lines outdoors.

Schiphol Airport’s travel checklist encourages travelers to bring a jacket with them in case they have to wait in line outside.

It’s not the first time Amsterdam has encountered large crowds and long wait times this year. In late April, TPG reported the airport told passengers to hold off on coming to the terminal. There was a wave of staffing issues at KLM that delayed flights and led to the airport getting so flooded with passengers that officials felt the terminal could not handle any more people.

Airline and airport officials say the most recent issues stem from a lack of staffing at security checkpoints.

While the problem seems to have come to a head in Amsterdam, this is just the latest reminder of the staffing challenges the travel sector faces on a global level. The problems include a pilot shortage, causing operational challenges at U.S. airlines, customs backups leading to “extreme” waits in Canada, and recent issues in the U.K..

Related: Avoiding long lines at the airport and during your travels

Like much of the world, the staffing challenges in Amsterdam are compounded by surging passenger traffic. The airport saw 2.6 million passengers pass through Schiphol during the peak spring travel period. It was shy of 2019 levels, but airport officials noted peak traffic points were comparable to pre-pandemic levels — a trend expected to continue this summer.

Amsterdam airport officials announced a four-part plan this week to cut down on wait times. The plan calls for stepped-up recruitment efforts, along with steps to optimize passenger traffic flow, among other solutions. The airport is bringing in “security coaches” to help keep the lines moving and even calling on office staff and recent retirees to help.

The airport has also put new, temporary slot rules for departing and arriving flights to reduce crowds during the summer months.

Meanwhile, as the airport’s biggest carrier warns passengers to arrive more than three hours before all flights, KLM also gives passengers options if they’d prefer not to weather the crowds.

passengers board a KLM plane in Amsterdam
Passengers boarding a KLM aircraft at Schiphol. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)

KLM passengers who would prefer not to travel have the option of rebooking flights before June 6 without any change fees. Passengers can also rebook to flights after June 6 without change fees, though they could be responsible for paying a fare difference on those flights. Changes must be made by June 6.

Passengers can also cancel their flight and request a travel voucher that will be valid for a year and usable on KLM, Air France, Delta Air Lines or Virgin Atlantic Flights offered on KLM’s website.

Featured photo via Getty Images.

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