One of the most popular arguments among the pro expansion lobby in the UK as to why London Heathrow needs a new runway can be encapsulated in two words – Amsterdam Schiphol. Schiphol, along with other European hubs such as Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle, is regularly used as an example of the dangers of allowing Heathrow to fall behind its continental neighbours.
If airlines find it difficult to obtain slots at Heathrow because of a lack of capacity, the argument goes, then they will simply choose to fly from one of its rivals, and, looking at the statistics, they may have a point. That’s because, although Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) nominally serves the Netherlands capital, Amsterdam, its biggest passenger market, according to Wilco Sweijen, the airport’s director of aviation marketing, is in fact the UK. Of the more than 51 million the gateway handled in 2012, around one-seventh originated from the UK. AMS is an important connector point for UK airports such as Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Durham that lack service to Heathrow. “For many years we have promoted Schiphol in the UK market as an ideal hub for traffic flows via Amsterdam,” says Sweijen. “The UK is our largest market, and it therefore makes sense to have a consumer presence there”. The UK transfer market has become something of renewed interest for Schiphol of late – most recently with a new route to Manston, Kent – underlining a need for more options among British travellers, particularly those wishing to connect to long-haul destinations. Indeed, Schiphol chief executive Jos Nijhuis went on record in February as saying that passengers are increasingly choosing to fly through Amsterdam rather than via Heathrow, due to a better choice of destinations and services, particularly to and from the important China region. It can be considerably more convenient for a passenger flying from a UK regional airport, as an example, to the Far East, to make the short hop to Amsterdam for his or her connection than to go via Heathrow. On average there are more than 800 flights each week between AMS and 27 UK airports, Sweijen says, with many passengers using these to connect to long-haul services to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. Connecting hub But Amsterdam is not just a connecting hub for the UK. For decades the airport, in close cooperation with its home carrier KLM and its SkyTeam associates, has been building a global network which links it to the world’s most populous and economically powerful cities. In 2012, transfer traffic increased by 3.4% to 20.9 million, making up 41% of the total number of passengers using the airport. While rivals Heathrow and Paris each serve 117 and 315 global cities respectively, Amsterdam boasts a network of 317 destinations worldwide. “Our goal,” says Sweijen, “is to connect the world via Amsterdam, and to be Europe’s ‘preferred airport’. This is also achieved by developing the marketplace, and by working closely with airlines to develop new routes and to increase frequencies and capacity. “A strong point of Schiphol is the network we have in Europe. In fact, Amsterdam has more UK destinations and flights than any other airport in Europe. Also, our network in the Nordic countries is rather unique. Besides that, we are currently connected to seven Chinese destinations.” Three of those Chinese routes, to Hangzhou, Chengdu and Xiamen, are served in Europe only from Amsterdam with KLM, Sweijen adds. Other ‘unique’ destinations include Bali, Manila and (from April) Fukuoka in Japan. Already also confirmed for 2013 are new services to Abu Dhabi, Kent/Manston, the Channel Islands, Albania and Istanbul, as well as several other European destinations.Three principles for growth Schiphol’s success in attracting new services is based on three basic principles, says Sweijen. “First, we listen, and think along with your business. We present you with route opportunities, and we share useful market insights based on objective data,” he explains. “To be competitive, we continuously follow developments in the market, improve our facilities, and offer our services at a competitive price,” he points out. “Special points of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are its vast network, with unique destinations in comparison to other European hubs.” Connectivity is central to Schiphol’s business model and the airport prides itself on smooth transfers through its single terminal and a quick transfer time of 45 minutes. Signage in multiple languages and even a Chinese language app have also been designed to ease the process. “Connection times at Schiphol are short in comparison to other major airports. However, in the case that the passenger does have a longer connection wait, he or she will love the airport for its variety of shopping, food and beverage, and many other facilities,” says Sweijen. “Just to name a few: the casino, the airport library, museum and airport forest.” The layout of AMS’s terminal means passengers are never far from their next flight – or from easy and fast public transport connections into the city (the railway station is directly underneath the airport). However, Amsterdam is fast becoming a victim of its own success. With traffic expected to increase by 25% over the next 9–10 years, Schiphol is creaking under the burden of ever more passengers and flights, and while it has six runways, flight movements restrictions and terminal capacity limitations are being keenly felt. “Total aircraft movements at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol amounted to over 423,000 in 2012,” says Sweijen. “The environmental capacity at Schiphol has been capped by the Dutch government at 580,000 yearly movements up to 2020. After 2020, the capacity is allowed to increase based on a 50/50 basis (i.e. no capping, but burden sharing with the neighbours). “Our airport has the highest hourly capacity of all European airports, with 108 movements an hour in peak times. This is vital to maintain our hub status in Europe and serve KLM, SkyTeam and other airlines at our airports,” he adds. To deal with the issue, Schiphol is putting the final touches to a new masterplan. Phase 1 will see the non-Schengen security gates centralised to speed processing and the construction of a new pier, which will increase the airport’s capacity by some 3 million per year. “At the end of 2012, Schiphol kicked off a project which will bring to an end security checks at non-Schengen gates,” says Sweijen. “These security checks at the gates will disappear, and be replaced by central security filters. This means we will employ central security filters at Schiphol, in all three departure halls, as well as two filters for transfer passengers. “This is necessary to ensure the comfort for the passengers while moving through and staying at the airport. It will benefit the efficiency at the airport, and will mean compliance with the European laws and regulations into the future,” he says.Source: routesnews, Stuart Bowden
Gravity always wins!