Schiphol returns last of over 10,000 suitcases stuck at airport since June 28

Thousands of pieces of luggage stuck at Schiphol Airport since a baggage system disruption at the end of June have since been returned to their owners, the airport told NL Times. Over 10,000 items were left behind on June 28, mainly affecting passengers who were transiting through the Amsterdam airport while traveling to a different destination. Some passengers whose journeys started in Amsterdam that day were also impacted.

A spokesperson for the airport said they brought in extra baggage handling staff to finally resolve the issue. “It takes some time because all of the luggage has to be screened again,” she continued. The airport said they were “doing our best together with the airlines.”

At the same time, NL Times spoke with seven different people with items that were checked in, but misplaced. All of them said neither Schiphol nor their airlines could provide them with information or prompt updates. The lack of communication extended to the point where the airlines blamed the airport, saying it was the airport’s job to get a handle on the situation, while the airport’s customer service teams expressed sympathy to the passengers but referred them back to their airlines.

The issue was related to the system that connects all of the baggage holding areas at the airport. A spokesperson for Transavia, the budget airline owned by Air France-KLM, said the issue likely affected all airlines that had flights in and out of the airport that day. Many of their scheduled flights departed on June 28 without any baggage loaded into the aircraft. NL Times also spoke with passengers from KLM and Delta who were affected by the issue. A spokesperson for EasyJet said the issue did not really affect their operations.

Brian, an American who traveled with his wife and two adult daughters, said his family finally retrieved their luggage 11 days late on July 9. They left Minneapolis on Delta on June 27, connecting in Amsterdam on a KLM flight to Florence, Italy for a two-week holiday. “However we had to take time to get on a train and go to Florence to pick it up, otherwise I was not sure if we would ever see them again,” he said by email. Once they arrived at the airport, it took over an hour to get their items in a rather disorganized and chaotic atmosphere. “There were hundreds of bags there in a storage area. Now the question is, will we get reimbursed for all the stuff we had to purchase?”

He said they decided to change their flight to fly direct from Rome to Atlanta to avoid flying through Schiphol Airport. He also felt his booking airline, Delta, did not handle the situation particularly well, first by leaving him in the dark about the status of his luggage, and then making him use his miles to again get the seating class upgrade he had originally booked.

Another passenger’s mother finally received her two pieces of luggage on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the luggage disruption. She said there were no staff members at the airline capable of helping, and that Schiphol’s baggage department would not respond to phone calls.

A family flying on Delta from Minneapolis to Barcelona with a stop in Amsterdam spent about 90 minutes on June 28 waiting to file a lost luggage claim at Schiphol when their baggage did not arrive at the carousel. In the week that followed, they were unable to get answers from Delta, KLM, Schiphol, or baggage handling firm Groundforce about an update, or information about reimbursements for expenses on essential items while they waited. “Like all passengers the impact is very frustrating,” he said, adding that they were missing basic necessities, mementos and gifts, and also items needed for their children’s activities planned during the holiday.

“We are fortunate basic medications and needs are with us, but there has been a fair amount of mental and emotional stress from the experience for my family.”

Schiphol’s extreme baggage problems the past

Schiphol Airport said it does not expect a repeat of last year’s overcrowding and luggage-related nightmare seen throughout peak travel seasons in 2022. The airport will be forced in the coming years to reduce the number of baggage handling firms working at the airport, bringing the total from six down to three, the Dutch Cabinet said. The Dutch government is the majority shareholder of the airport.

Schiphol wound up in a similar situation last year which was worsened by extensive understaffing at outsourced baggage handling firms, but also chronic security staffing shortages. Significant crowding at security checkpoints were visible mainly from April through September, but with a few additional occurrences later in the year. Many passengers were able to check their luggage, but missed their flights, requiring baggage handling teams to offload their checked items before departure. The lack of personnel led to a pile-up of baggage, and the staffing shortage made it difficult to make arrangements. By July 2022, there were 10,000 pieces of baggage stuck at the airport, with over a month needed to fix the issue.

KLM wound up telling many passengers to only take carry-on luggage when flying, saying it was the only way they could guarantee passengers would have their bags at the end of a flight. Other airlines, like Icelandair, sent their own baggage handling teams on flights to Amsterdam to ensure passengers received checked-in luggage.

Schiphol dealt with a similar problem in July 2019, when a baggage system malfunction resulted in several thousands of items left behind at the airport. Another 9,000 suitcases were left at Schiphol in August 2016 when a baggage system failure affected KLM and Delta passengers transferring to other flights via Amsterdam. That incident was not resolved for several days.

ImageBaggage stuck since June 28 at Schiphol Airport lined up at the airport in Florence, Italy on July 9, 2023 Baggage stuck since June 28 at Schiphol Airport lined up at the airport in Florence, Italy on July 9, 2023 – Credit: Anonymous / Supplied to NL Times – License: All Rights Reserved

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