KLM may ground all intercontinental flights due to new restrictions
The mandatory rapid Covid-19 tests for travelers from abroad means that KLM will likely stop operating long-haul flights from Saturday. As things currently stand, hundreds of freight and passenger flights will be canceled per week, unless the government exempts KLM crew from this testing requirement, the Dutch airline said, NOS reports.
On Wednesday afternoon, the outgoing cabinet announced that from Saturday all travelers from countries with an increased risk of catching Covid-19 will have to undergo a rapid test shortly before departure. Without a negative test, they will not be allowed to board the plane.
According to KLM, this means that crew members who test positive will have to be left behind abroad, and that does not work with "good employment practices". Leaving staff behind could also result in occupancy problems on the planes. This will affect several hundred flights a week, mainly intercontinental ones, a spokesperson for the airline said to NOS.
KLM therefore asked the government to exempt its staff from the testing obligation. The airline is also looking for other solutions internally, such as flying with extra crew to make sure they have enough staff for the return flight.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management said in a response that KLM employees can only skip the rapid test if they stay within the secure area at the airport. "As soon as they step into a high-risk area and spend the night there, for example, they run the risk of infection with the coronavirus or mutations thereof, just like other people in the country concerned."
The exception offered by the Ministry is not a workable solution for long-haul flights. After landing, KLM always allows the crew to stay overnight in a hotel because of mandatory rest times. And hotels are past customs.
Trade union De Unie told NOS that the mandatory rapid test will cause extreme damage to the Dutch economy. "Between the lines, the cabinet may well have announced the resignation of thousands of KLM employees today," De Unie chairman Reinier Castelein said.