Passengers who have to wait for their bags for hours in the middle of the night. Pilots who, out of desperation, load their own luggage in order to leave on time. Transavia, KLM’s budget airline, had a far from flawless summer.
It was chaos, writes trade union FNV on behalf of Transavia employees in an open letter to the management of the airline. Ground crews are “deeply concerned” about the company’s “operation and reputation”.
The operational problems do not only make Transavia, which is trying to recover from the corona crisis, a less attractive choice for passengers. In the long run, the employees fear, Transavia will also become an unattractive employer. Already ‘well-trained colleagues’ are leaving for better-paying employers in and outside aviation.
The FNV trade union states that a staff shortage at the company that checks in Transavia passengers at Schiphol and handles the baggage there is an important cause of the problems. Since 1 April, Transavia has been purchasing these services from Viggo.
According to Transavia employees, Viggo has “no experience at Schiphol”. The company would not be able to do the work within the agreed deadlines. This leads to delays and great dissatisfaction among passengers. They have shared their worries on social media in recent weeks.
Although Viggo is new at Schiphol, it has been providing the ground handling for Transavia in Eindhoven. The company is one of eight ground handlers at Schiphol. There are relatively many; comparable airports in Europe operate with two or three handling companies. In addition, many security companies and cleaning companies are active at Schiphol.
Also read: Cut-throat competition at Schiphol, staff worried about ‘race down’
The FNV has been drawing attention to this situation for some time. The facility companies are played off against each other, the union says, which leads to a ‘race to the bottom’. For low fees, the security guards, handlers and cleaners subscribe to contracts from the airport and the airlines. According to the union, these floor prices are at the expense of employees and safety at Schiphol.
‘Cheap is expensive’
The choice of handling company Viggo, which hired some of KLM’s handling staff, appears to be a case of ‘cheap is expensive’, according to the letter from Transavia employees. Due to Viggo, the budget airline would have spent an unnecessary amount of money on meal allowances, hotel stays and costs for sending luggage that could not be loaded on time. „The money that is needed for the recovery of the company is now flying there […] with loads of money due to rebookings, delays and cancellations”, according to the employees.
A Transavia spokesperson called it a pity that the union is now seeking publicity through an open letter. She states that the airline has now taken “a lot of measures” to prevent the problems that occurred especially at the beginning of August. According to her, Viggo has also taken steps to improve the service.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of August 26, 2021