The Netherlands to start full body scans of all US bound passengers

The Dutch government held a press conference this morning announcing their plans to beef up security at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

Within three weeks, fifteen bodyscan machines will be in place (sources say the machines are the Rapiscan Secure 1000 scanners), and a 100% screening of all US bound passengers may help prevent a repeat of the Northwest Airlines incident.

See – THIS is how you tackle security. Something happens, and within 3 weeks, you implement the technology required to prevent it from happening again. I’m not a big fan of the bodyscanners, but given how the terrorists are operating, I don’t see any other solution, short of asking people to fly naked.

Government officials made it clear that only one person will be able to view the scanner screen at a time, and that images can not be stored. The initial implementation requires border protection police staff to view the screens, but the next version will be fully automated, and a computer will determine whether any items are on your body that require closer scrutiny.

Of course, the Dutch privacy groups are very much against the scanners. My biggest concern is that images of naked children leak out, and make their way into the hands of pedophile groups. If governments are indeed going to start an accelerated roll out of these scanners, they’d better be 100% sure they protect our privacy – if they screw this up (and chances are, they will), the backlash will be fierce.

European airline competition reaching the boiling point

Even though the environment has changed dramatically, airlines in the US are a pretty calm and respectful bunch. New airlines come (and go), and their competition is limited to copying each others routes and prices. Very rarely will you hear airline A call airline B anything nasty.

In Europe, things are different – very different. Competition in Europe is cutthroat, and this doesn’t always end up benefiting travelers.

Take for example Ryanair – this airline has become one of the largest (and cheapest) in the world. The airline is rude, charges a fee for everything you do, and is proud of their lack of customer service. But when you can fly across Europe for $20, you forget all of that.

When Ryanair approached Manchester airport requesting they lower their airport passenger fees, the airport refused. Normally, this would be the end of the story, but Ryanair does not take too well to being told “no” to anything, so they are moving all their flights out of Manchester, and moving them to surrounding airports. The stubborn airport will now lose 40 flights a week, 600,000 paying passengers and most likely 600 jobs.

A similar situation is taking place in The Netherlands, but this one is between two airlines and an airport. EasyJet is furious that KLM cut a deal with Amsterdam airport to lower the airport passenger fees for transiting passengers.

Passengers on KLM flights arriving at Schiphol, and transiting to another KLM flight only pay $18. Passengers on EasyJet who arrive at Schiphol as their final destination, pay $40. Even though both passengers use the exact same facilities, the KLM passengers pay much less.

The two airlines and the airport will be facing each other in court, but it is going to be a tough battle, EasyJet is a foreign carrier, and KLM is the Dutch national pride. But once again, the airport better watch out, because after KLM, EasyJet is the largest airline at Schiphol, obviously giving them quite a bit of power. Losing all those flights would put a huge dent in their income.

Dutch airport hotel for goldfish the newest victim of the recession

Seriously, is nothing safe from the grasps of the crappy economy?

Even the goldfish hotel we wrote about back in June barely lasted 4 weeks before closing the lid of its tank.

Closing the “hotel” wasn’t too hard, because when its end came, there were no guests checked in, and no reservations lined up.

Of course, because the whole concept was sponsored by a travel agency, it is perfectly possible that the opening and subsequent closing were all one big PR stunt, but sources confirm that the hotel was real, and that several people actually arrived at Schiphol airport with a goldfish ready to be checked in for a week.

Still, I think 4 weeks is a record for the launch and failure of a hotel, even if it was only open to fish. Then again, in an era where pets get their own airline or hotel and dogs have sex toys, not much surprises me.

Layover: Amsterdam Schiphol

Layover in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport? Perhaps not even sure which European country you’re in? Allow me to help.

You are in The Netherlands, or Nederland, as the Dutch call it (I wish we all called it that; the plurality is grammatically vexing). The people, the language, and all things from there are called “Dutch.” These different names are to confuse you. Some people get all messed up and call The Netherlands Holland, which is incorrect; North and South Holland are provinces of Nederland. If you are at Schiphol, you are in the province of North Holland. The Netherlands is part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes Caribbean countries Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles.

Map here: The Netherlands

So. Now you know where you are. Here’s what you can do!

Shorter (2 hour) layovers

Nederland is known for windmills, tulips, cheese, art, wooden clogs, and letting people do drugs. You can find all these things, with the probable exception of the last one, right at Schiphol airport.

Schiphol is a sprawling airport with a lot of floors of a lot of stuff. You’ll find gift shops stocked with mini windmills and porcelain imitations of wooden shoes sold right alongside fancy cheeses and chocolates. If you’re really up for the chocolates, though (wherever you’re going, it never hurts to show up with a box of Dutch chocolates), hit Leonidas for an excellent selection. They’re cool about selling you just one truffle, too, if you just want a quick little nom.
Up for more shopping? Hit up the duty free shops. You’ll get one of those bright yellow “See Buy Fly” bags; a status symbol for when you’re sipping cocktails afterward. If you’re not headed home yet and don’t want to carry your purchase on your vacation? You can pick it up when you get back to Amsterdam with their Pick Up On Return program.

If you’re on the way back from roughing it and are hurting for some Americanization, there’s Burger King, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Sbarro, but I’ve always been a fan of the oddly placed, impromptu-seeming Sushi Bar. It’s near Lounge 2 and very tasty. Amsterdam is not terribly famous for food, so don’t kill yourself trying to find an authentic local dish. Just get a Heinkein or a gin (the Dutch originated Jenever) and eat what you want.

Harried? Hit up the Silence Centre. Alternatively, hit the restrooms for the calming tulip images emblazoned all over the stalls.

The most important thing to see at Schiphol? Not the massages, not the exclusive club with the iris scan, not the Kids’ Forest (unless you have kids), not the casino, but the museum that’s right there! Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol is a great (and free) place to forget you’re at the airport. Good info here, and I highly recommend the Schiphol Museum Shop, too.

Longer layovers (4+ hours)

Got 4+ hours? Good news: You are already at the train station.

Ditch your bags in the basement of Schiphol for just a few dollars (they have these crazy high-tech storage lockers), and get on the train to see some of Amsterdam!

For interested parties, here’s a good guide to buying drugs in Amsterdam, but as you know, you really, really can’t take it with you on the plane (and shouldn’t try), and airlines have the right to refuse passengers who’ve had too many beers, let alone too many mushrooms. If you’re not staying the night in Amsterdam, I’d advise you not to step through the looking glass, so to speak.

Here are some ideas for what you can do pretty quickly:

Here’s all the info you’ll need to get around.

Alternatively, you can hit the Sheraton Fitness & Spa facility (open 24/7) — a day pass is just EUR 20 — or take a nap by booking a tiny room at YOTEL (minimum four hours).

Other tips

Lastly, here’s how to say the name of the airport without sounding like an idiot: “SKIH-pole.” Hope that helps!

Amsterdam airport opens the world’s first hotel – for goldfish…

We’ll file this one under “wacky PR news” – Amsterdam airport just opened the world’s first hotel specifically designed for goldfish.

The hotel is operated by “D-Travel”, a major player in the Dutch travel booking market, and passengers who booked their trip through them can use the facility for free.

Upon arrival at Schiphol airport, passengers can hand over their fish at the goldfish check-in desk (seriously!) and each fish will be placed in its own little fish tank.

Having arrived home after a 2 week vacation to discover that my aquarium had gone through a catastrophic meltdown, I have to say that the idea sounds cool, though I’m not entirely sure I’d feel comfortable loading fish into a bag to transport to the airport.

Imagine arriving at the airport, only to discover that the goldfish hotel is closed, or overbooked! You’d be stuck at the airport with a flight departing in 2 hours and a bag full of fish on your luggage cart. Obviously a bad way to start your vacation.

Click the images below to learn about other weird hotels: