“11 years at the airport and I have never seen anything like this”

Impressions from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport following Europe’s travel bans and lock down implementations.

Photos and text by Veronica Kontopoulou

It is not business as usual at Schiphol Airport this Sunday evening. Many of the travelers, have had to battle through a multitude of flight cancellations to return to their home country. The COVID-19 outbreak is visible everywhere; in the red and white tapes restricting passengers from enjoying a seated meal at any of the cafés and restaurants, the frequent reminding announcements to keep distances of 1,5 meters between staff and others and the strikingly empty shops, lounges and corridors. Most shops and kiosks have pulled their roller shutters down while cafés and eateries only operate on a takeaway basis. There are hardly any customers anywhere, most of the chatter taking place is that between the staff of the airport. The few travelers to be found are sporting face masks and are visibly alert. Screens around the airport are flashing instructions of the measures against the virus. The atmosphere is certainly uneasy. We spoke to some of the staff in the airport:

Annemarike Hartog, Fine Foods;

“Everything has changed dramatically in the past few days and every day is dramatically different to the day before. We see mostly foreigners now, not Dutch people anymore. I believe by Tuesday we will be closed … I stand here behind my desk and keep my distance between the customers. I feel perfectly healthy so there is no reason to stay at home. If I get a cold, then I will absolutely stay home.”

Janne Jensen*, Flowers & Bulbs;

“It was a bit busier in the morning but now it is completely dead. I have been working 11 years at the airport and I have never seen anything like this.”

What is certain, is that the air travel industry has taken an unprecedented hit. The coming days will most likely determine the future of a lot of airlines and airports. Some might be strong enough to overcome these unforeseen times, while others might be faced with nationalization as their only option.

*The name has been changed to conceal the interviewee’s identity.