Schiphol retains ACI passenger ranking as commercial expansion steps up

By Benedict Evans |

The Salon, in Schiphol’s newly renovated Lounge 1, is part of a €3bn investment towards renewal and maintenance of the airport.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol bounced back in 2023 following a tumultuous 2022. Despite ongoing issues with potential flight limits, the airport’s steps to streamline its operations and enhance the commercial offering are beginning to pay dividends. 

 In TRBusiness’ breakdown of the Top 10 busiest international airports from Airports Council International (ACI) World last year, the tone from Ruud Sondag, former Interim CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, was one of disappointment at the exceptional wait times that Schiphol faced in the summer of 2022. 

In 2023, it has been a different story altogether. 

 “Our airport is once again a pleasant place, not only for travel but also for work. We intensified our steps towards striking a better balance for both neighbours and the environment too,” stated Sondag.

Getting to the numbers

The Dutch airport once again retained its third-place ranking for international passengers in ACI World’s list of the top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2023, reaching 61,882,546 pax.

This 17.9% increase on 2022 also marks a near return to pre-Covid levels (88.3%). 

The 61.8m international pax alone surpassed the total number of passengers passing through Schiphol in 2022, which peaked at 60.8m; 2023 saw 71m total pax.

Royal Schiphol Group made substantial improvements in revenue year-on-year, rising 24% in 2023 to €1.8 billion/$1.9 billion.

Schiphol Commercial alone accounted for €564m/$604m of that, a 14.6% increase over 2022; concessions took a €176m share of that total revenue figure.

The retail environment

In the latter half of 2023, Royal Schiphol Group announced €3bn in maintenance and renewal of the airport’s assets, which have included the newly opened Kaagbaan Runway, a renewal and extension of Lounge 1 to cover 24,000sq m, and an upgrade to Lounge 2, both in terms of space and retail offering. 

“We’re looking to raise the quality of our F&B and diversify our concepts there, bring in additional luxury brands, and grow our core categories such as liquor, cosmetics and tobacco,” noted Tim de Bie, Director Commercial at Royal Schiphol Group.

The Perfumes & Cosmetics store at Schiphol forms an essential part of its push to elevate its core categories.

Key retailers like Pernod Ricard, Gebr. Heinemann, and Mondelez World Travel Retail have benefitted from the extensive and ongoing investments into the airport infrastructure.

In July 2023, Pernod Ricard, Gebr. Heinemann, and Schiphol Airport Retail relaunched the Amsterdam Golden Beacon concept into a fully modular store, and Mondelez World Travel Retail opened its first shop-in-shop in partnership with Schiphol Airport Retail and Gebr. Heinemann.

Buyout of Kappé 

In November 2023, the airport also swooped to take a 100% stake in airport retailer Kappé, which has been a commercial partner for the aviation hub since the 1950s and employs over 300 staff at 15 shops within Schiphol Airport. 

Kappé Perfumes & Colors; Kappé was acquired by Schiphol in November 2023 as part of a renewed commercial strategy which prioritises growth, with a focus on growing core categories and actionable data analysis.

“The perfume, cosmetics and sunglasses shops are an essential part of the retail offering at Schiphol,” said Arthur Reijhart, Director Commercial at Schiphol.

Further, Schiphol also recently announced a landmark tender under its ambitious new retail and F&B strategy, the process for which is set to begin in the imminent future.

The Dutch Angle

Despite the more positive outlook heralded by Sondaag, Schiphol was – and still is – caught up in a series of controversies regarding limits on flight numbers.

The now shelved plan by the Dutch government to cap the number of flights to a maximum of 460,000 (down from 500,000) by the summer of 2024, was not well received by many in the aviation industry.

The initial decision led several airlines, namely: KLM; EasyJet; Delta; Tui and Corenden to threaten legal action against the Dutch government.

The plans are currently in limbo until the European Commission can deliver a verdict on the plans under its ‘Balanced Approach’ procedure for traffic reduction at airports.

Future flight path

Hans de Groot, Head of Retail, F&B and Commercial Services at Royal Schiphol Group, emphasised Schiphol’s renewed focus on building its analytics capabilities as a promising new avenue within its overall commercial strategy. 

“One of the things we are putting a lot of emphasis on is bringing back a big bucket of data with concrete insights and making them actionable,” he said.

It does so with data gathered from over 250 VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) which, daily, supply sku and offline data to its in-house team for collation and analysis. 

Ultimately, numerous partnerships and acquisitions within and mutually inclusive of Schiphol, which range from a 40% stake in Maastricht Aachen Airport (MAA) which set them back €4.2m; the arrival of four new airlines (PLAY; Freebird Europe; Air India; JetBlue); and Air France-LKM’s 20% share in Scandinavian Airlines, bode well for the future of the airport.

For more comment and analysis on European retailers and operators, watch out for the full report in the June/July ACI Top 10 Airports edition of TRBusiness, available in digital format right here.

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