KLM has said it will cancel all long-haul flights after the Dutch Government announced it will toughen travel restrictions.
The Dutch Government announced this week that it would toughen travel restrictions for all passengers flying to the Netherlands.
Besides the negative PCR test which was already required for all passengers flying to the Netherlands, travellers will now be required to show a negative rapid test as well taken no later than four hours before the flight.
As a result, KLM management has now decided to cancel all long-haul flights as well as a big portion of its European flights. Although without doubt the likely downturn in passenger numbers has played a major role as well in KLM’s decision, it is actually a whole different reason which has led the Dutch flagship carrier to cancel its intercontinental flights.
Cabin crews are not exempted from the new Dutch travel restrictions, which means that also pilots and flight attendants will have to take a rapid test as well before their flight back.
According to KLM’s management, this poses a huge risk as it could lead to the potential situation in which crew members have to be left behind in a foreign country if they test positive for the corona virus, something which they can never allow to happen as an employer trying to look after its personnel.
Union bosses have said they can understand KLM’s reasoning, although they fear the consequences of the cancellation of long-haul flight traffic.
Union chief Reiner Castelein told Dutch commercial TV station RTL: “Weekly there will be 273 intercontinental flights cancelled and around 20 percent of European flights can no longer be operated as well.”
The union boss explained that some European destinations might be impacted as well, as sometimes KLM crews stay the night in an European city in order to operate early morning flights back to Amsterdam.
Castelein said: “If the evening flight is cancelled, the morning flight back can no longer be operated as well.”
The Dutch union boss said he could understand the decision as “you cannot leave a 30-year-old flight attendant behind who doesn’t speak the language [in destinations like Nairobi and Abu Dhabi].”
He added: “If there will be an even stricter lockdown, they might not be able to come back for weeks.”
According to local media, there are renewed fears of a possible bankruptcy of KLM as a result of the stringent Dutch measures, something which was echoed by Castelein.
He said: “Passengers will divert to the competitors in neighbouring countries who have fewer restrictions.”
Castelein said that “there is panic” among KLM staff as hundreds of crew members fear losing their job. Indeed, KLM announced today that it has to scrap a further 1,000 jobs on top of the 5,000 lost jobs it announced months earlier. The new job losses will apply to pilots, cabin crew and ground personnel alike.
Just like Castelein, I can’t help but to be completely puzzled about the Dutch policy as the Netherlands is the only country in the world where passengers flying KLM are now forced to show a rapid test next to a PCR test. Not a single other country in the world has such a double testing requirement.
Castelein rightly concluded that “the government is killing off the entire [aviation] sector”, something which could indeed happen in the Netherlands.
Bizarrely enough, the Dutch Government already bailed out KLM once before. It is therefore a bit ironic that KLM is now getting into deeper problems thanks to the same Dutch Government, which in the future might have to bail out the airline once again. Talk about wasting taxpayer money to heal self-inflicted wounds!
Although I can definitely understand that countries feel the need to take measures to combat the ongoing corona pandemic, not a single other country in the world is willingly causing their own airlines and economy so much pain.
Just compare the situation in the Netherlands with Turkey for example, where the Turkish Government first demanded transit passengers to show a negative PCR test result, but quickly rescinded the measure when it saw what negative consequences it would have for Turkish Airlines.
And while the Netherlands is making flying next to impossible, travellers are still allowed to travel to the Netherlands by train or car without any testing requirement whatsoever.
KLM will cancel all of its long-haul flights and a big portion of its flights within Europe because of a new Dutch Government requirement forcing all passengers flying to the country to show both a negative PCR test as well as a negative rapid test result.
It is a decision which will not only affect thousands of travellers across the world who might find themselves stranded, but KLM crew as well. As a result, the Dutch airline already announced the loss of a further 1,000 jobs.
Union bosses warn of even graver consequences as the new government requirements could potentially lead to KLM’s bankruptcy.
I can only hope that the Dutch Government will exempt flight crew from the new measures, which would at least be a bit of silver lining for KLM, even though it will not solve all of their problems and worries given that passengers numbers are likely to drop substantially.