Schiphol struggles with security

23rd January 2007, Comments 0 comments

Tighter security checks on hand luggage has caused all sorts of headaches for Schiphol Airport, but the situation is set to worsen. Aaron Gray-Block reports.

Some two-and-half-months after the introduction of new baggage security regulations, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is still encountering daily problems.

All carry-on liquids must be placed in a clear plastic bag

Schiphol's operational director Ad Rutten says on the website that baggage delays and problems with angry passengers are still occurring.

He urged earlier this week for the regulations to be amended, calling for random spot checks "based on good preliminary inquiries".

Rutten also advised to only conduct security checks on suspicious passengers or "risk flights".

Limit on liquids

New European baggage regulations came into force on 6 November last year.

The new measures came into force after British police claimed to have thwarted a mass terror attack with the use of liquid explosives on flights between London and the US.

Passengers are now only allowed to bring a limited amount of liquids, gels and aerosol cans on board (maximum 100ml per item).

The liquids also need to be carried in a see-through plastic bag and presented separately for inspection.

Baby food and medicines are always permitted on board, while liquids bought duty free after passport controls will be packed and sealed for you.

The new regulations affect all passengers departing from or transferring from an airport within the EU.

But Rutten claims the current situation is not much better than shortly after the new rules were introduced, at which point chaos erupted at airports across Europe.

"Usually, with new rules you see the problems decline after a couple of months. But this is not the case with the baggage rules. That is still a problem, each and every day," he says.

New security measures

Adding to concerns is the looming 1 May introduction of new security measures placing limits on the size of hand luggage.

"The situation will be even more complex because of that," Rutten says.

The new regulation will restrict hand baggage to the size of an attaché case.

There is also talk of introducing a compulsory shoe check, in which passengers will be forced to take their shoes off.

That security measure is a reminder of Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" who tried to blow up a transatlantic flight in December 2001.

But Schiphol management is also concerned that the new security checks will negatively affect the Amsterdam airport's competitiveness.

As a "real transfer" airport, Schiphol competes with other airports on its quick transfer times.

"We can do without delays in security checks," Rutten says.

Rutten also claims EU rules are applied much stricter at Schiphol than other large European airports, such as Frankfurt and Paris.

"We are kept under very close supervision in the Netherlands, but in other countries that is possibly less. We are therefore the most stringent," he says.

Confusing rules

Rutten also pointed out that passengers can get confused by the new regulations.

"A pack of spread cheese is considered a liquid and is not allowed into the cabin. But an Edam cheese is not a problem," he explains.

"The jar of peanut butter also needs to go, but you can take a thousand sandwiches with peanut butter. That is almost impossible to explain."

Despite the problems, passenger satisfaction at Schiphol remains high. In fact, passenger satisfaction increased by 1 percent in the past year to 93 percent, Rutten says.

Ongoing criticism

The security checks at Schiphol Airport — which are imposed by the Justice Ministry — have been subjected to repeated criticism.

The recently retired chief of the KLM security service, Teun Platenkamp, has regularly urged with other experts to focus all efforts on suspicious passengers.

This differs from the current approach in which all passengers are con

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