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A KLM 777 departing in 2019. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

KLM Halts Intercontinental Flights in Response to New Travel Restrictions

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has suspended 270 flights to the Netherlands, including all of its intercontinental services, after new government regulations were imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to intercontinental flights, certain routes between Amsterdam and other European destinations will be canceled indefinitely beginning on Jan. 22, including all connections where crew members would be forced to spend a night in a foreign country.

“We cannot run the risk of our staff being stranded somewhere. This is why we are stopping all intercontinental flights from Friday & all flights to European destinations where crew members have to spend the night,” KLM said in a statement after the ruling.

At the time of writing, the airline has not posted an update on its website and has been telling passengers they are “awaiting further information.”

Implementing Stricter Measures

The Netherlands has been in a lockdown since mid-December. Schools and all non-essential hospitality and retail locations have been shut. But on Wednesday the country’s government recommended stricter measures to slow the weight of the coronavirus, including temporary bans to locations with an uptick on a new, more-contagious variant of the virus identified most prominently in South Africa, the United Kingdom and certain South American countries.

The country has also invoked a curfew and requires passengers coming to the Netherlands from abroad to take a rapid coronavirus test prior to departure as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival in the country.

Crews flying back to the Netherlands from abroad have been held to the same testing standards as passengers. To date, KLM has been flying to high-risk countries in order to support essential travel, operate repatriation flights and carry cargo abroad.

Limiting Passengers and Cargo

With the flight stoppage, the question arises once again of how businesses can continue shipping products abroad with reduced cargo capacity. Many coronavirus vaccines produced in Russia, India and China, for example, are shipped westward through Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, often on KLM aircraft. Without this capacity, it will be more difficult for these vaccines to make it to places especially vulnerable to the virus, like South America.

Without exemptions for airline crews, it will be virtually impossible for KLM to resume these vaccine-carrying services. And this announcement comes just days after negotiations on additional support for Air France-KLM group came to a standstill; this, plus KLM’s reduced revenue from stopping so many flights, will put KLM in an especially precarious position as its cash flow has been severely limited in an already-strenuous time.

The stoppage also comes just weeks after KLM was rated as a four-star airline for coronavirus safety by Skytrax, the international airline rating agency. Upon granting its rating, Skytrax noted that “[KLM’s] onboard cleanliness and cabin presentation is at a good quality level and service systems for catering are adapted for COVID-19 times, with some reduced contact delivery and enhanced food safety measures for meal presentation.”

John McDermott
John McDermott
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