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KLM Suspends Many Long-Haul and Some European Flights

UPDATE: It appears this change has been withdrawn: Read posts near end of thread.

It is being reported that effective Friday, January 22, KLM is suspending all long-haul flights as well as some intra-European flights. The change appears to result from the mandatory-testing requirement established by the Netherlands. Update: It appears (see below) that not all long-haul flights have been canceled.

https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/economie/artikel/5209790/klm-corona-lange-afstanden-medewerkers-personeel

If you don't read Dutch (I certainly do not!), you'll need to translate that webpage. The machine translation is a bit rough. I'm sorry I couldn't find an English-language source for this information.

Posted by
7401 posts

From what I saw yesterday, to even transit a Netherlands airport one had to have a negative ( gold plated type) test no more than 3 days prior and also a negative 'quick test' prior to boarding the plane.

If one was staying in the Netherlands one then hand to quarantine for 5 days before being allowed to get another negative test or stay locked up for 10 days.

No surprise KLM is cutting back

Posted by
1767 posts

Apparently the airlines big concern is that they would get to destination X and have to leave half the crew behind because of the testing requirements. And I kind of see their point. What are you do leave the flight attendant without a family etc. Or you have to cancel her flight because the pilot tested positive. On a overnight turnaround this is just not realistic for an airline so they’re saying we can’t make make it work

They don’t want to run the risk of having crewmembers and airplanes stuck all over the world while they try to figure out how to get everybody back together.

This is why most of these rules have had an exemption for flight crews

Posted by
2054 posts

You can read more about this decision in this South African report: https://www.businessinsider.co.za/klm-cancels-long-haul-flights-after-netherlands-travel-restrictions-2021-1. This article, in English, also provides more information on the additional COVID restrictions facing those of us living in the NL.

I suppose this decision is not surprising. On Jan. 14, Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte stated. "If it were possible, I would enforce a ban on all flights traveling to the Netherlands immediately." Needless to say, KLM - which was being propped by the Dutch government - was visibly unhappy. Not to mention all the businesses which require AIR Cargo support, including the flower industry since the Dutch are the largest exporter of flowers in the world. (Surprisingly, this country - the size of NJ and MA combined - is the #2 exporter of food and agricultural goods in the world - 2nd only to the USA).

But Rutte was expressing his obvious frustration with how the Dutch people were behaving during the pandemic, Unfortunately, a lot of that may be the fault of his own government. The Dutch government has appeared to be very reactionary and a tad behind other EU countries. And the lack of enforcement of stated restrictions has led to confusion, frustration, and the Netherlands becoming a "hotspot" in the EU.

For example, early in the pandemic response, Amsterdam and Rotterdam had concerning outbreaks. The government decreed that certain neighborhoods of each city would require residents to wear masks. Huge, temporary flashing signs were put up, it was on the local news, etc. After two weeks, the restrictions were dropped as NO ONE was wearing masks and there was no enforcement.

I traveled - for business - in 2020 and arriving in other EU countries I had to show my passport, tell where I'd been the previous 14 days, and in some cases, even getting my passport stamped when traveling EU to EU. Landing in Milan and Rome, I was greeted by folks in HAZMAT suits and it was required that I have my temperature taken before I was allowed into the terminal to pick up my checked luggage and depart. But upon return to AMS, I've always walked off the plane, through the terminal, directly to my car in the car park or the train... NO CHECKS WHATSOEVER.

In December 2020, when the infection-rate numbers were approaching US proportions, a strict lockdown was introduced. In part, it was a reaction to impending German restrictions. Over the past year, when restrictions have less severe than in neighboring Belgium and Germany, citizens of those countries simply drove across the border to the NL and shopped or had lunch. Thus, in less than 45 days, we went from really few restrictions to now, when we will perhaps have the most restrictive travel rules in the EU.

Will the government step back now that KLM has cut out these flights? The Rutte government is under incredible pressure. Due to a NON-COVID-related scandal, the entire cabinet has been forced to resign. (But with the exception of one minister who was fired, they will all be allowed to stay on until the elections in March). There's a lot of frustration out there. Because we live in The Hague - the seat of government for the country - we probably see and hear more protests than other parts of the NL. Will we see a more right-leaning government elected in March? Will Rutte, who has had a 10-year run, be out? Sounds a little like the USA in 2016...

I was on the phone with a hotelier in South Africa shortly after the flight restrictions to the UK, South American, and South Africa were announced. Their country is wide-open to Americans... and KLM (and connecting through AMS) has been a huge part of their transportation options. Alas, for at least the next four weeks, his clients will have to find alternative routes.

Posted by
6396 posts

Very interesting, acraven, and thank you for sharing the context and on-the-ground experience, RnR.

Fascinating.

Posted by
1767 posts

Well I’m not sure what’s going on. But a plane flown by KLM that was supposed to takeoff out of Amsterdam at 5:15 this evening for JFK is in the air. The earlier flight today also took off. And flight aware it shows the flights tomorrow still on schedule

The part that no one is actually considering it as that KLM is actually playing a huge role in the Covid fight. They and that airport have been working to make sure they can transport these vaccinations in a safe manner. And as you may recall for the Pfizer vaccine that’s not exactly easy. So if you take that out you may have a problem getting vaccine where it needs to go in this world

Posted by
909 posts

Just to add to what Carol has observed...KL601/602 (AMS-LAX-AMS) is also flying today.

Posted by
2054 posts

The restrictions to the UK, South Africa, and South America start today, January 23, 2021. As joe32F points out, the "other" KLM cancellations are limited to specific places/flights. We have friends in Aruba who cut their vacation short and returned yesterday to the NL as KLM informed them that their future flight (a week from now) would be canceled. Another friend was headed to a safari in two weeks and her flight into Nairobi has been canceled by KLM - she is scrambling to find an alternative flight. Conversely, My son is scheduled to fly on the 5.15 KLM flight on 2/25 (AMS-ATL) and as of yet, he has not been notified of any changes. Thus, whereas flights to SA, UK, and various South American countries will end today - as deemed by the Dutch government and not KLM - the airline is then "cherry-picking" which longer routes they will cancel.

There will be a ripple effect. For example, KLM owns 40% of Kenya Air. Speaking to an African travel company last night, their concern was not just the KLM connections to African cities but what impact the financial pressures and the lack of KLM-connecting-flights (and more economic pressure) would have on Kenya Air. We're still hoping the Dutch government will revisit the more restrictive policy which has led to KLM's decision. Today, we start a nationwide 9 PM curfew for the next few weeks... so we'll see what happens.

Posted by
2054 posts

As you can imagine, this was the lead story on the local news yesterday. Most definitely, relief for KLM and their customers!

Posted by
7532 posts

Whew. Good news. I was concerned that this could be a precursor to more companies stopping long-hauls, as happened last year.

Can't disagree with the testing, just how it's done.

Posted by
1767 posts

I expect that this will still result in a dramatically smaller number of flights for KLM. While they have now gotten permission to deal with the crew situation it appears they believe the new testing requirements will make it hard for them to find anybody willing to fly. So they will start cutting flights