August 17, 2022

Airports in Europe are largely understaffed, especially with a shortage in ground handlers. This is causing major issues with reliably delivering checked bags. Icelandair has a creative solution for this, at least at one major airport.

Icelandair flying baggage handlers to avoid issues

Amsterdam Schiphol has been one of the most problematic airports in Europe this summer, as it has been having among the biggest issues with staff shortages. This has caused the airport to impose a passenger cap, but even with that, there are still issues, especially with baggage delivery.

Icelandair is taking matters into its own hands — the airline is now sending its own employees to Amsterdam to help with loading and unloading bags. Here’s how an Icelandair official describes this:

“We have also been sending people ourselves out to smooth over the bag problems that have come up. Since last Friday, we have added two bag handlers to our crew to Amsterdam to speed things up and keep planes on time.”

“We will have to see how it develops and whether we carry this on, and even maybe to other destinations. As I say, we are trying to find ways to reduce the effects of these delays and minimise disruption to the journeys of our passengers.”

I imagine this is helping somewhat with bags being loaded in Amsterdam, and that could be a worthwhile investment. After all, the airline is on the hook for compensation in situations where bags aren’t delivered to passengers on-time, and that says nothing of the impact on customer satisfaction.

Admittedly there’s probably only so much that these Icelandair baggage handlers can do. Typically the issue isn’t loading the bags that are plane side, but rather that the bags are stuck or delayed somewhere in the airport’s massive baggage system.

Icelandair planes are only scheduled to be on the ground at Schiphol for 70-75 minutes, so that’s not much time for work to be done.

Amsterdam Schiphol is having major issues this summer

The logistics of this must be interesting

First of all, this is quite an investment on the part of Icelandair. Not only do these two baggage handlers presumably take up seats that could otherwise be filled with passengers, but they’re also flying 3hr15min in each direction. When all is said and done, they’re probably using their entire shift just to spend 70-75 minutes on the ground in Amsterdam.

Now, a few thoughts about that:

  • Presumably this reflects that Keflavik Airport isn’t understaffed in the same way as other airports, so they have workers to spare
  • I’m curious how this works logistically, because just because someone has security clearance to access an airport tarmac in Iceland presumably doesn’t give them the right to access a tarmac in the Netherlands, right?
  • Then there’s the whole question of whether this violates any union or labor clauses, since there are typically rules around who can perform different work functions

Regardless of the logistics, kudos to Icelandair for thinking outside the box, and investing significantly to make the passenger experience just a bit smoother.

Icelandair is flying baggage handlers to Amsterdam

Bottom line

With major European airports struggling to cope with travel demand, Icelandair is undertaking an impressive initiative to get bags delivered on-time. Given that Schiphol Airport is having so many issues, Icelandair is currently flying baggage handlers to & from the airport to help with loading and unloading bags.

They’re just on the ground for 70-75 minutes between flight turns, and I’d consider to that to be pretty remarkable. The airline is even considering expanding this concept to other airports.

What do you make of Icelandair sending baggage handlers to other airports?

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