Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, AMS, is the Netherlands' main international airport, located close to central Amsterdam, in the municipality of Haarlemmermeer. Schiphol airport is the primary hub for KLM (the world's oldest airline flying under its original name) as well as for Arkefly, Corendon Dutch Airlines, Martinair and Transavia. The airport also serves as a European hub for SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines and as a base for Spain's Vueling. EasyJet and KLM owner Air France are also major operators here. Schiphol is considered to be an Airport City due to its large base of ancillary businesses at and around the airport. Schiphol opened in 1916 as a military airbase.
AMS ranks as Europe’s 4th busiest airport (behind LHR, CDG, and FRA) and the world's 14th busiest by total passenger traffic in 2011. It also ranks as the world’s 6th busiest by international passenger traffic and the world’s 17th largest for cargo tonnage. Due to its ease of operations and user-friendly operations, AMS is challenging its competitors and is forecast to move past some of its competing airports. A major advantage of Schiphol is its six runways ranging from 6,608 feet to 12,467 in length. The northern end of the Polderbaan, the name of the last runway to be constructed, is 4.3 mi north of the central Terminal, causing lengthy taxi times up to 20 min to the terminal. Plans exist for a seventh runway. This keeps air traffic flowing even in bad weather conditions.
The AMS Air traffic control tower which stands curbside next to the original control tower, with a height of 331 ft, was the tallest in the world when constructed in 1991. Schiphol is geographically one of the world's lowest major commercial airports, along with New Orleans. The entire airport is below sea level with the lowest point sitting at 11 ft below sea level.
Schiphol is sometimes called the "Singapore Changi" of Europe, given its innovative features. AMS has large shopping areas as a source of revenue and as an additional attraction for passengers. This in part is what gives the airport its name as "Airport City". Schiphol Plaza is the shopping centre before customs, hence it is used by air travelers and non-traveling visitors. This is yet another advantage of Schiphol. Culturally, AMS has other innovations. The Rijksmuseum operates an annex at the airport, offering a small overview of both classical and contemporary art. AMS boasts the world's first permanent airport library opened alongside the museum. Schiphol has its own mortuary, where the dead can be handled and kept before departure or after arrival. Since October 2006, people can also get married at Schiphol.
AMS is one of the largest, if not the largest, airport in Europe under 1 continuous terminal roof, split into three large departure halls, which converge again once airside. The most recent of these was completed in 1994, and expanded in 2007 with a new part, named Terminal 4. Plans for further terminal expansion exist, including the construction of a separate new terminal between 2 runways that would end the one-terminal concept Schiphol has become famous for. The current departures areas are divided into three sections or halls: 1, 2 and 3 with 3 being the newest. To all of these halls, piers or concourses are connected. However, it is possible, on both sides of security or customs, to walk from one pier to another, even if they are connected to different halls. The exception to this is the low-cost pier M: once airside (i.e. past security), passengers cannot go to any of the other halls or piers. Immigration control separates Schengen from non-Schengen Areas. Schiphol Airport has approximately 165 boarding gates available. Departure Hall serves Concourse B and C, which are showing their age. Concourse Hall consists of Concourses D and E which are somewhat more modern. Concourse E is for non-Schengen international flights. Departure Hall 3, the most modern, serves Concourse F, G, H, and M. With the exception of KLM, most airlines have no designated counters or gates as AMS practices a shared terminal model. Schiphol is also equipped with 18 double jetway gates in preparation for airlines introducing the Airbus A380. Emirates was the first airline to the A380 to Schiphol in August 2012, deploying the Whale Jet on its daily Dubai-Amsterdam service.
Unlike most airports, Schiphol actively courts the aviation enthusiast with a large rooftop viewing area, called the Panorama Terrace. It is not accessible to connecting passengers unless they first exit the airport. Enthusiasts and the public can enter, free of charge, from the airport's landside. Since June 2011, it is the location for a KLM Cityhopper Fokker 100, modified to be a viewing exhibit. There is a small observation era above Concourse C for passengers past customs. AMS also hosts a one-hour behind-the-scenes tour which operates daily. The Schiphol Behind The Scenes tour drives around the perimeter road to maintenance facilities, ramps, and even the fire department. It also drives past the former facilities of Fokker aircraft which started a factory here in 1919. There's also a wonderful airline themed gift store called Plane Plaza in the Shopping Concourse which is hard to miss due to the large engine, landing gear, and front section of a DC-9 fuselage sitting in front of the store.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the national Dutch train operator, has a major passenger railway station directly underneath the passenger terminal complex and offers transportation into Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam and many other cities. Schiphol is also a stop for the international high-speed train Thalys, connecting the airport with a direct train connection to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris.