Schiphol municipality Haarlemmermeer is the Netherlands’main airport. Located south of Amsterdam, Schiphol aims to be a European mainport, competing in passenger and cargo throughput with Heathrow International Airport, Frankfurt International Airport and Charles DeGaulle International Airport.
In 2004, Schiphol ranked fourth in Europe in terms of passenger traffic with 42,541,000 passengers, behind London Heathrow (67,344,000), Paris Charles de Gaulle (51,260,000) and Frankfurt International Airport (51,098,000).
Schiphol has 5 main runways, plus 1 used mainly by general aviation aircraft. The “fifth runway” (really the sixth) was completed in 2003. Plans have already been made for a seventh runway.
Schipol is built as one large terminal split into three large departure halls, the most recent having been completed in 1994, which converge again once airside. There are plans for further terminal expansion.
Because of the intense traffic and high landing and parking fees at Schiphol, more and more holiday-carriers have moved some of their flights to smaller airports.
Schiphol is the home base of KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), Martinair and Transavia, and a hub for Northwest Airlines.
Schiphol has large shopping areas as a source of revenue and as an additional attractant to air-carrier passengers. Schiphol Plaza is the shopping centre before customs, hence not only for air travelers, but also for people who just change train here, etc. There is a regular-size supermarket, Food Village, which is open until midnight seven days a week.
Schiphol is the world’s lowest major commercial airport. The Schiphol ATC tower, with a height of 101 m was the tallest in the world when constructed in 1991. Its base is actually 5 m below sea level.
Schiphol also has its own mortuary where deceased people can be handled and kept before departure or after arrival.
Schiphol started early last century as a military airbase, consisting only of a few barracks and a mud pool serving as platform/runways. When civil aircraft started to make use of the field, it was often called Schiphol-les-bains. The Fokker aircraft manufacturer started a factory near Schiphol airport in 1951.
Schiphol’s name means “ship hole”. It is part of the Haarlemmermeerpolder, which before around 1850 was a large lake. Its original name was ‘schiphel’ meaning ‘ship hell’, because many ships mysteriously got lost in the lake.