Icelandair Flies Baggage Handlers To Amsterdam

Icelandair Flies Baggage Handlers To Amsterdam

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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?

Conversations (11)
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  1. pete kurian Guest

    I like this concern from Icelandic and speaks volume on their desire to become a world class airline with exceptional service .
    Ive passed through Schiphol 5 times in the past 2 months and the luggage problem is terrible ;the worst I have ever seen,
    I cannot with a clear mind blame KLM for the issues of Schiphol .I do like KLM
    although I am not a business traveler.
    My suggestion...

    I like this concern from Icelandic and speaks volume on their desire to become a world class airline with exceptional service .
    Ive passed through Schiphol 5 times in the past 2 months and the luggage problem is terrible ;the worst I have ever seen,
    I cannot with a clear mind blame KLM for the issues of Schiphol .I do like KLM
    although I am not a business traveler.
    My suggestion is come early ;if things dont go as planned and if you are on holiday as part of your holiday experience,
    YOU dont have to be somewhere at certain time for a meeting.
    I take a 5mm BO medicine and my BP went up every time but guess what ?
    I wont pass up another chance of a 2 pt hike in my BP.Life is good!
    Bethoven with all the issues he had in his life ,wrote some of the most beautiful sonatas,!! Listen sometimes;even while you are standing outside the building for 2 hrs or more just to get inside the building on may 30 while enroute to Helsinki.and on to Delhi.

  2. R H Guest

    When I flew from AMS on Icelandair on 3 July, the baggage for the flight was loaded by the pilot and copilot. My impression was that there was nobody else to do it.

  3. George Romey Guest

    This isn't all that uncommon. I've implemented expense report software for airlines that was used in part to reimburse gate agents and baggage handlers that travel to other airports to cover staff shortages. Interestingly, the airlines (I dealt with) did not pre-arrange hotel rooms and ground transportation the way airlines do for crews. Workers had to pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed.

  4. AC Guest

    Good for Icelandair - I flew them in May JFK-Stockholm with a layover for 2 days in Iceland on the way. Booked Saga Premium for under $1000 r/t last year. As you know - no sleeper seats but food, service and liquor/wine selection was great. KEF airport definitely is running well and doesn't seem overwhelmed at all. Just a guess but assume Iceland doesn't have as much of an issue w COVID and also likely...

    Good for Icelandair - I flew them in May JFK-Stockholm with a layover for 2 days in Iceland on the way. Booked Saga Premium for under $1000 r/t last year. As you know - no sleeper seats but food, service and liquor/wine selection was great. KEF airport definitely is running well and doesn't seem overwhelmed at all. Just a guess but assume Iceland doesn't have as much of an issue w COVID and also likely has higher pay to retain workers. Also, flight volume is limited since mainly Icelandair and Play flights with connections and all other carriers terminate there.

    Also, if you haven't been to the Saga Lounge at KEF I highly recommend it. One of the nicest lounges I've ever been in. Huge with nice food/beverage selections. Even has an Icelandic elf rock in there

  5. Rhys Guest

    A SITA badge, at least in the US, gives access to most of the airport tarmac and security side company facilities and is individually issued by each airport. An aircraft crew member typically has the right to work only in what we called the shadow of the aircraft. This is how a pilot does walk around to inspect a plane, but doesn’t have a SITA badge for each of potentially hundreds of airports he or...

    A SITA badge, at least in the US, gives access to most of the airport tarmac and security side company facilities and is individually issued by each airport. An aircraft crew member typically has the right to work only in what we called the shadow of the aircraft. This is how a pilot does walk around to inspect a plane, but doesn’t have a SITA badge for each of potentially hundreds of airports he or she might operate a flight to. I would imagine this is how baggage handlers from another airport could work close to a plane, but wouldn’t be allowed to wander around the airport as security conscious employees are required to challenge anyone seen without proper credentials. I am not too familiar with European security protocols though.

  6. uldguy Diamond

    Northwest did the same thing years back by sending US ramp employees to Amsterdam to assist KLM during the summer rush. NW had not problems getting volunteers and the addition of experienced ground staff at AMS really helped to keep baggage moving.

  7. Sean M. Guest

    Back in winter 2007 when we were leasing a 757 from Loftleidir (a subsidiary of Icelandair), we did similar by flying a pair of rampers up from Ghana to assist with the loading at Gatwick. It was a short term issue (about 2 weeks) due to combination of staff shortages, heavy loads and short turnarounds but it helped keep us largely on schedule and around 12% more bags loaded on average per flight as a...

    Back in winter 2007 when we were leasing a 757 from Loftleidir (a subsidiary of Icelandair), we did similar by flying a pair of rampers up from Ghana to assist with the loading at Gatwick. It was a short term issue (about 2 weeks) due to combination of staff shortages, heavy loads and short turnarounds but it helped keep us largely on schedule and around 12% more bags loaded on average per flight as a result.

    Logistically the rampers are classified as crewmembers on the general declaration and are therefore allowed to operate only "within the aircraft footprint". They also couldn't operate any machinery for insurance reasons, but they were very useful just to have an extra body helping with stacking in the holds.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Why stowaway anymore if you can volunteer to be bag handlers, LOL.

      You even have extra space on the way back.

  8. jack14850 New Member

    This actually isn't super uncommon in regards to understaffing situations. I was a cross-trained agent (meaning both ticket counter/gate and ramp ops) for AA and we were routinely offered temporary duty assignments in understaffed airports, including both day trips and multi-day assignments. We flew positive space when doing one of these assignments, so AA must have deemed the extra labor worth losing some revenue. Glad to see Icelandair doing something to reduce pressures at AMS.

    This actually isn't super uncommon in regards to understaffing situations. I was a cross-trained agent (meaning both ticket counter/gate and ramp ops) for AA and we were routinely offered temporary duty assignments in understaffed airports, including both day trips and multi-day assignments. We flew positive space when doing one of these assignments, so AA must have deemed the extra labor worth losing some revenue. Glad to see Icelandair doing something to reduce pressures at AMS.

    1. Bob Guest

      Was it inside the US only?

    2. Beto Guest

      I’m also an AA cross-trained agent based in Guadalajara Mexico (GDL), last year a group of agents from various Latin American airports were sent to help with staffing issues at DFW and CLT. I spend two months working the never ending line at the customer service desk in DFW’s terminal A. It is also really common, for GDL agents at least, to be assigned to Cancun during the peak season.

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uldguy Diamond

Northwest did the same thing years back by sending US ramp employees to Amsterdam to assist KLM during the summer rush. NW had not problems getting volunteers and the addition of experienced ground staff at AMS really helped to keep baggage moving.

2
Sean M. Guest

Back in winter 2007 when we were leasing a 757 from Loftleidir (a subsidiary of Icelandair), we did similar by flying a pair of rampers up from Ghana to assist with the loading at Gatwick. It was a short term issue (about 2 weeks) due to combination of staff shortages, heavy loads and short turnarounds but it helped keep us largely on schedule and around 12% more bags loaded on average per flight as a result. Logistically the rampers are classified as crewmembers on the general declaration and are therefore allowed to operate only "within the aircraft footprint". They also couldn't operate any machinery for insurance reasons, but they were very useful just to have an extra body helping with stacking in the holds.

2
jack14850 New Member

This actually isn't super uncommon in regards to understaffing situations. I was a cross-trained agent (meaning both ticket counter/gate and ramp ops) for AA and we were routinely offered temporary duty assignments in understaffed airports, including both day trips and multi-day assignments. We flew positive space when doing one of these assignments, so AA must have deemed the extra labor worth losing some revenue. Glad to see Icelandair doing something to reduce pressures at AMS.

2
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