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Leveraging cargo operations at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Anne Marie van Hemert, Head of Aviation Business Development, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport spoke with International Airport Review’s Editorial Assistant, Lily Mae Pacey during Routes Europe 2022 in Bergen. Together they discussed the dominant role cargo operations played during and post-pandemic recovery, as well as how sustainability and digitalisation combined will shape Schiphol’s future.

A change in passenger dynamics

Luckily, no matter how anxious a passenger may be to fly, there is always a large majority who are willing and ‘itching’ to travel again, whether that be for leisure or visiting friends or relatives (VFR). In a passenger survey at the beginning of 2022, 36 per cent of passengers travelling to, from, and through Schiphol were for holiday and leisure, 35 per cent were VFR, and business travellers made up 26 per cent of the results. “In the past and especially pre‑COVID-19, the figure for business passengers was higher, sitting at 32 per cent,” explained van Hemert.

An airport is like a city concept. We have a variety of food and beverage and retail, either for the ‘typical’ Dutch traveller, who are looking for the right value in quality and price, as well as fashion, liquor, and perfume stores for our Asian traveller type, who is wanting high yield products, displayed in a high‑quality design”

In 2019, Schiphol saw 71.7 million passengers pass through the airport. However, back in 2021, this dropped significantly to 25.5 million passengers, due to the impact of the pandemic. Over the first half of 2022, Schiphol welcomed back 27.3 million passengers.

“We trust in the fact that traffic is going to continue in high volumes and that we see a steady growth coming back.” During the summer season we did encounter various challenges to meet the increasing volume of passengers. “This was clearly reflected in the lack of security staff at the airport which led to longer waiting times than was standard pre‑COVID. On certain moments we were not delivering the product our passengers and airlines expected”. To be able to meet the demand, Schiphol had to limit the number of local departing passengers.

With a rise in leisure and VFR passengers at Schiphol, the airport has considered the different attributes, cultures, and expectations of this type of passenger.

“An airport is like a city concept. We have a variety of food and beverage and retail, either for the ‘typical’ Dutch traveller, who are looking for the right value in quality and price, as well as fashion, liquor, and perfume stores for our Asian traveller type, who is wanting high yield products, displayed in a high-quality design.”

Cargo: A new dot on the horizon

Like so many other airports across the globe, Schiphol experienced a boom in cargo operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, looking to the future of cargo at the airport, operations will begin to look more like a ‘brand.’ The updated cargo strategy has been formulated in collaboration with the surrounding community, which looks at four different pillars: connectivity, seamless operations, sustainability, and safe and secure cargo operations.

The airport has developed a ‘pre‑notification’ for cargo and as part of the operations process, details and data are shared with Schiphol. Therefore, cargo can be more predictable and the operations more efficient and safer for all.

Schiphol’s ‘Smart Cargo Mainport’ programme focuses on these key pillars, supported by state-of-the-art digitisation and technology.

“I think it’s safe to say that this programme has brought the whole community closer together, as well as leveraged our action plans – we needed to have that speed again,” van Hemert added.

‘Connecting your world’ strategy

Schiphol’s future strategy, “is a large statement in itself,” which focuses on sustainability efforts, as well as, continuing high-quality services across the large network, which contains European destinations and intercontinental. The strategy capitalises on the idea of leveraging the airport’s new connections, but also securing existing route options to ensure they are future‑proof.

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