Schiphol Remains Well Below 2019 Passenger Levels

Operational disruptions and staffing shortages took a toll on the Amsterdam hub in 2022.

Credit: Joe Pries

Royal Schiphol Group said 52.5 million passengers traveled to, from or via Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) in 2022, 27% fewer than the 71.7 million annual passengers recorded pre-pandemic in 2019, after staffing shortages led to disruption and forced it to impose a capacity limit.  

The airport operator said the preliminary figures showed passenger numbers were up 106% compared to the 25.5 million travelers recorded in 2021.  

“Due to the lifting of [international] travel restrictions, aviation saw further recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in 2022,” the group said in a statement. “In the first half of the year, passenger numbers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol increased by 324% compared to the first half of 2021. This led to operational disruptions—predominantly the consequence of staff shortages—with long queues as a result.”   

The airport, KLM’s hub, was forced to impose a capacity limit on departing flights in a bid to manage the disruption. It first announced a cap on departing passengers in June as it struggled to keep up with strong demand amid worker shortages, and later extended the cap, which is due to remain in place until the end of March. The airport operator also teamed up with security companies and unions for a recruitment drive and to improve employment terms and attract more staff.  

The numbers include transfer passengers—37% of the 52.5 million recorded in 2022—and those passengers are counted twice, once as an arrival and once as a departure, Schiphol noted.  

The airport recorded 397,646 air transport movements in 2022, 49% more than 2021 and 20% fewer than 2019.   

The group will give definitive figures when it publishes its financial results in February.  

Schiphol also faces a longer-term limitation on capacity for different reasons: in June 2022, the Netherlands government put forward a proposal under which Schiphol would no longer be allowed to exceed the established noise-nuisance limits, effectively limiting flight movements to a maximum of 440,000 a year. That cap, which compares to the 500,000 existing limit that allows for growth to 540,000, could come into effect in November 2023, but with talks still taking place between the aviation sector and the government, it is not yet a certainty.