The evaluation of PwC Strategy& following the May and summer holidays 2021 is an extra motivation for Schiphol to implement structural improvements at the airport. CEO Ruud Sondag writes this to Minister Mark Harbers of Infrastructure and Water Management. Schiphol shared the evaluation with the Minister of I&W today. CEO Ruud Sondag writes to the minister that Schiphol has an agenda to implement structural improvements and that PwC’s recommendations support this agenda. During the May holiday 2023, travelers once again had a pleasant journey, which shows that the measures taken in the meantime are effective. At the same time, Sondag states that there is still a lot to be done: “We can improve quickly in part. We saw that last May. However, some of the problems are more deeply rooted and solutions need more time. Everyone at Schiphol feels an enormous motivation to do better every day. We will continue to work hard on short waiting times for passengers, good service to airlines, good working conditions, better infrastructure and a healthy future.” Jaap Winter, chairman of the Supervisory Board: “The report provides insight into the complexity of the problems Schiphol found itself due to the exceptionally rapid scaling up after the Covid period, which has had far-reaching consequences for aviation and the airport. The report contributes to the insights of the Management Board and Supervisory Board that the ecosystem at the airport must be fundamentally strengthened, with greater concern for people’s working conditions, the living environment at and around Schiphol and the state of our infrastructure. This provides a clear agenda for the future that requires tight, operational management with sound financial parameters.” — Letter from Schiphol CEO Ruud Sondag to Minister Harbers of Infrastructure & Water Management
Your Excellency, 2021 was not a good year for Schiphol Airport: long queues, canceled flights, dissatisfied travellers. Schiphol did not offer its travelers the service they expected. It is an image that cannot be repeated. Schiphol has asked PwC Strategy& (hereinafter: PwC) to conduct an external evaluation of this period and to make recommendations for improvements. At your request, your Ministry has taken a look at the assignment formulation. The conclusions are clear: the entire system – from security to handling – squeaked and creaked in the spring and summer of 2021. Operational bottlenecks at Schiphol and important chain partners were not entirely new, but painfully came to the surface in these months. The airport process, especially after a two-year pandemic and a wildcat strike at the beginning of the May holiday, with the result that passengers arrived earlier and earlier at the airport, was not yet shockproof. Due to the corona pandemic, it was very uncertain to what extent and when demand for aviation would return. The demand for flights at Schiphol rose sharply 2021. The number of travelers grew by % compared to the first half of 2021. The normal course of events at Schiphol was seriously disrupted from that moment on. The report is in line with the insight that Schiphol has become more and more aware of in recent months. That insight is that for a long time too little attention has been paid to three fundamental matters: the quality of work for everyone who works at the airport, care for our environment and the quality of our infrastructure and buildings. Quantity took precedence over quality and that has not done any good to the working conditions, the quality of life in the area and the state of our terminal and everything it contains. With regard to the quality of work and the quality of our living environment, you are familiar with our action plan (the 8-point plan) and we are working on it energetically. The first steps have already been taken. We will shortly be presenting our plans for the investments in our terminal. These plans consist of catching up on major maintenance backlogs, improving and renewing our infrastructure and improving working conditions. All this so that we can deliver more quality to travelers, airlines and employees. The PwC report also endorses the need for structural change in the management system of the airport and the course Schiphol is taking. has deployed. For too long, for a variety of reasons, the emphasis has been mainly on low costs and too little on the quality of labor and infrastructure. Schiphol can no longer and does not want to be just a management organisation. Schiphol wants to play a broader role in this. The emphasis in recent years on cost-efficiency and competition, which has partly been brought about by government policy and legislation and regulations, has gone too far in Schiphol’s view. Partly due to this context, the enormous decline in operational reliability at Schiphol proved difficult to repair. PwC describes the situation from about a year ago and focuses on what the researchers believe could be improved. It is not the intention to map out all the effects of the corona pandemic on aviation and Schiphol or to pass judgment on Schiphol’s actions. The researchers found that the organization intervened quickly and adequately in certain areas, for example by concluding an agreement with the unions, but that the underlying problems were too great to solve in a short period of time. That is why Schiphol has drawn up an action agenda to structurally solve the underlying problems. Schiphol already started doing this last year. We have intensified this towards the May holiday and we will continue this in the coming period. The recommendations from the PwC report support this and are additional motivation. In the May holiday of 2023 travelers have a pleasant had a trip via Schiphol. This shows that the measures we have taken are working and it gives confidence for the rest of the summer season. Prior to this period, intensive work was done on, among other things, the recruitment of new colleagues, the improvement of terms and conditions of employment and mutual cooperation in the sector. We also put a lot of time and energy into maintaining our equipment, such as the security passages, elevators and the baggage system. This improved the performance of our infrastructure. For all this taken together, our employees and partners deserve a great compliment. At the same time there is also the realization that we are not there yet. More is needed to solve operational problems structurally and thus regain the confidence of travellers, airlines and society. In part, we can improve quickly. We saw that last May. However, some of the problems are more deeply rooted and solutions need more time. Such as the extremely competitive market for handlers at Schiphol, the challenges in terms of working conditions and the state of our infrastructure. The challenges are great and our ambition to solve them is also great. This is at the top of our agenda and we work on it every day. Because everyone at Schiphol feels an enormous motivation to do better every day. We will continue to work hard on short waiting times for travellers, good service to airlines, good working conditions for everyone who works at Schiphol and a healthy future. The new course that Schiphol has embarked on is broader than operational improvement. It is also about a quieter, cleaner and better Schiphol. A place that continues to connect the Netherlands with the rest of the world, but with demonstrably less impact on people and the environment. A future-proof airport that the Netherlands can be proud of and where everyone enjoys working with satisfaction. I hereby present the report. If you need a further oral explanation, I am always happy to provide it.
ROYAL SCHIPHOL GROUP Ruud Sondag CEO 2021 2023