Cheap flights allow red-light business to take off at Dutch airport

DUTCH POLICE say they have no plans to take action against the development of what amounts to an unofficial red-light district…

DUTCH POLICE say they have no plans to take action against the development of what amounts to an unofficial red-light district at Schiphol airport – with foreign prostitutes using cheap flights to commute to the Netherlands from other European countries, sometimes every day.

An investigation has revealed that the women, mainly from eastern Europe, fly into Schiphol for pre-arranged or unscheduled meetings with clients in the international transit area of the airport, which means they do not need to go through as many customs or security checks.

Schiphol is one of Europe’s busiest international air traffic hubs, with a throughput of 45.5 million passengers annually. The investigation found that the Netherland’s relaxed and unthreatening attitude to prostitution was the main reason this apparently unique business had developed.

Airport staff interviewed for the investigation said the women and their clients used two hotels in the transit area which offered cheap room rates for passengers who wanted to rest for a few hours or freshen up between flights.


“Some women fly in for pre-arranged meetings, but others arrive and simply focus on passengers in the international area beyond customs, waiting for connecting flights or flights that they can see have been delayed,” said one Schiphol employee who works for a major airline.

“Some of the women fly back and forth the same day, because cheap flights from Amsterdam to airports all over Europe mean they can still make a healthy profit after paying for their tickets. Most of them seem to come from eastern Europe, but certainly not all.”

Regulated prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but what is taking place in Schiphol is ad hoc, unregulated and therefore illegal, according to Dutch border police.

A police spokesman said they had no plans to intervene unless they received specific complaints, which so far had not happened.

Amsterdam Prostitutes Association – which represents a high proportion of the estimated 25,000 prostitutes working legally in the Netherlands – said it did not object to the foreign women working at Schiphol as long as there was no question of them doing so under duress, or of human trafficking, which is a big problem in the country.

“The attraction is that they can earn lots of money here, probably considerably more than in their own countries,” an association spokesperson said.

“We do have a problem if they are being forced to work there by a pimp, but if they are enterprising enough to tap this lucrative market on their own, we have no problem with it. We’re all for it. We would warn them, though, that girls working on their own are always more vulnerable.”

After the legalisation of brothels in the Netherlands on October 1st, 2000, a flamboyant businessman, Theo Heuft, attempted to open a legal, fully regulated brothel at Schiphol. His plan was to offer “food, drink and massages” to travellers using what was euphemistically promoted as a “relax service” – but there was considerable and sustained opposition from other businesses at the airport.

When his application was turned down, Mr Heuft filed a legal action against the airport authorities, but the brothel never opened.