Flight operations at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Europe’s third largest in passenger throughput and the continent’s second largest in aircraft movements, are returning to normal after a malfunction of the aircraft fuel supply system on Wednesday caused significant disruption and the cancellation of hundreds of flights. “Schiphol is almost back to normal after yesterday’s situation. The queues at transfer desks and ticket counters have decreased,” the airport operators said in an update issued at 4:30 pm local time Thursday.
Schiphol said Aircraft Fuel Supply, the airport’s sole third-party fuel supplier, suffered a fault in its power system at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday. For safety reasons and following established protocol, the system turned itself off and, as a result, the piping system lost pressure, which meant ground crew could not refuel the aircraft. That forced airlines to cancel some 300 flights and incoming flights dropped to a third of normal capacity. Though crews fixed and reactivated Aircraft Fuel Supply’s system by around 9 p.m., disruptions continued well into Thursday with knock-on delays and flight cancellations. KLM, which by far ranks as the largest operator at Schiphol, cancelled 61 flights Thursday. It cancelled 189 flights on Wednesday.
The system failure reportedly does not relate to the unprecedented heat wave, which has set record temperatures in the Netherlands. The airport operator vowed it would conduct independent investigations into how the incident happened and identify preventive measures. “We recognize and understand that this is an unacceptable situation not just for ourselves, but also for travelers and airlines,” said Miriam Hoekstra-van der Deen, director of airport operations at Schiphol.
Aircraft Fuel Supply is a joint venture of several airlines, including Air France-KLM and fuel companies such as Shell and BP. It began operations in 1967 and is responsible for the reception, coordination, and distribution of jet fuel at the airport, NRC Dagblad reported. It does not buy or sell the fuel.