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Schiphol streamlines processes

Schiphol is constantly improving the check-in and control processes at the airport. Everything is aimed at making things as pleasant and easy as possible for both passengers and airlines.

Peak capacity optimisation

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol's system of runways has a large capacity. The design of the terminal enables large numbers of passengers and baggage to be processed at peak moments. These are the moments when intercontinental flights arrive and passengers transfer to other destinations. The early morning and the end of the afternoon are particularly busy periods at Schiphol. Because we are reaching the limits of the capacity at the terminal, we make clever use of the space that is still available in front of the border passage. Facilities that speed up the passenger process are self-service check-in, self-service baggage drop-off, the footbridge for premium passengers and the automated border control No-Q.

Nevertheless, there is a limited margin on busy days to handle disruptions due to weather conditions, cancellations or delays. Measures that have been taken to be prepared for any additional peak load are not allowing any renovations to take place during holiday periods and using additional personnel, including office personnel, to assist passengers. Each year, we draw up a special plan in collaboration with the different operational departments and KLM Ground Services, describing the immediate measures that are to be taken in the event of operational disruptions.

Self-service check-in

In 2012, we replaced all ninety yellow self-service check-in kiosks with new generation machines. To further stimulate the use of these kiosks, a number of them have been placed at 15 locations along the walking routes to the departure halls: near the staircase and elevator between Departure /Arrival Halls 1 and 2, on the ground floor of Departure Hall 3 and in the WTC walkway.

Self-service baggage drop-off

The number of self-service drop-off machines (SSDOPs) at SkyTeam in Departure Hall 2 was increased from four to twelve. In Departure Hall 3, easyJet and ArkeFly have started to use five of these machines. There will be a further increase in the number of SSDOPs in the coming years. In time, the use of these machines will increasingly become common practice.

During the summer, a pilot study was conducted to test the process of checking-in baggage at the parking lot for long-term parking ('Drive-in Check-in'). During the test period, and ArkeFly passengers could check-in their baggage at parking P3. This unburdens the passengers and makes it easier for them to travel to and move around the airport. Especially during peak periods, this process reduces the workload at the check-in and baggage drop-off desks in the departure halls. The pilot project was a success: passenger appreciation exceeded expectations. In consultation with the airlines, we are investigating a follow-up of this pilot.

Backbone for efficient baggage handling operational

After ten years of investments and construction, the baggage handling programme 70MB is essentialy complete, with the final highlight at the end of 2012 when the Backbone became operational. This Backbone interconnects the South, West, E and D baggage basements. Over the past years, Schiphol has invested approximately 800 million euros in this new advanced baggage handling system, which is designed to increase the capacity to 70 million pieces of luggage. This project has been realised in close cooperation with primary user KLM.

After the Backbone became operational at the end of 2012, the Schengen check-in of the SkyTeam partners was moved to desk rows 3 to 8 in Departure Hall 1. This enables us to accommodate the expected further growth of KLM and the SkyTeam partners. Baggage that is checked in at Departure Hall 1 can be transported to all the airport baggage handling areas via the Backbone.

The IR-rate, which is the percentage of baggage items that do not arrive at the destination at the same time as the passengers, decreased from 2.0% in 2011 to 1.5% in 2012. 


Another novelty in 2012 was the automated border passage, the so-called No-Q, that was introduced in collaboration with the government. With this system, which includes facial recognition, passport control is fully automated. The first automated border passages are located in Departure Hall 3, in Arrival Hall 3 and at the border control between Departure Lounge 1 and Departure Lounge 2 (Schengen and non-Schengen). For the time being, the automated border control is only available for adult European travellers with an electronic passport (with chip). In time, it will be possible for everyone to use the automatic border control.

No-Q speeds up the flow-through at Passport Control. The number of control points can be increased, because the No-Q ports only take up two-thirds of the space of a staffed control point.

Cost efficiency

Cost efficiency is measured in terms of cost per Work Load Unit (WLU). One WLU is equal to one passenger or 100 kilograms of cargo. In 2012, the cost per WLU for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol amounted to 10.77 euros (2011: 10.54 euros).

Premium footbridge opened

The 'premium bridge', a footbridge that connects parking P2 to the corridor between Piers B and C in the Schengen area, was opened on 1 October. This is an extra service for premium passengers and members of the Privium service programme who only carry hand luggage. They can walk directly from parking P2 to the gate, thereby saving time by avoiding the usual processes in the regular departure hall.

Creating space for larger aircraft

There is a clear trend that airlines are using increasingly larger aircraft, including the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787-800. In August, the first scheduled commercial flight of an Airbus A380 arrived at Schiphol. In connection with the increasing number of larger and heavier aircraft at Schiphol, we have had to make adjustments at several locations. This included strengthening the viaducts in the runway area, reconstruction of gates E18 and G9 and adjustments to the waiting areas at the gates to accommodate the larger number of passengers. In view of these developments, Schiphol takes into account the possibility that additional changes to the infrastructure may be necessary in the future.

Summer and winter operations

Disruptions due to weather conditions were limited to short periods. Schiphol had to cope with heavy snowfall during a couple of hours on a number of days in January, February and December. This resulted in cancellations, in particular for flights to and from European destinations. Transfer passengers were redirected to other airports.

During the busy summer period, our office staff assisted with the work in the terminal. This was particularly helpful for the smooth running of the ticket and boarding card control processes. In Departure Hall 1, extra ticket and security control lanes were added.