KLM in the crunch due to mandatory rapid test, hopes for exceptional position

Due to the mandatory rapid test for travellers from abroad, KLM is likely to stop operating long-haul flights on Saturday. As it stands, hundreds of cargo and passenger flights would be cancelled a week, the airline says.

This afternoon, the Cabinet announced that from Saturday all travellers from countries with increased coronarization risk will undergo a rapid test shortly before departure. Without negative test results, they should not get on the plane.

According to KLM, crew members who test positive results run the risk of having to stay abroad and that would not be in line with ‘good employers’. Also, the lag of personnel is likely to lead to occupancy problems on the aircraft.

According to a KLM spokesman, these are several hundred flights a week, mainly intercontinental connections.

Exceptional position

KLM is trying to convince the government that the staff will receive an exception. In addition, the company is looking internally for other solutions to cope with the risk of lagging workers, for example by flying with additional crew members to distant destinations.

The Dutch Cabin Staff Association also says that the KLM management is discussing an exceptional position. โ€œIf the government does not want to make an exception, KLM is indeed obliged to keep the intercontinental fleet fully grounded for the time being,โ€ writes the union in a statement.

Stay at the airport

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management says in a response that KLM employees will only be subject to the mandatory rapid test if they remain within the secure area at the airport during their journey. โ€œAs soon as they get out in a high-risk area and spend the night there, for example, they run the risk of infection with the coronavirus or mutations thereof, like other people in the country concerned.โ€

This exception does not appear to be workable for long-haul flights. After landing, KLM always lets the crew stay overnight in a hotel due to rest periods, which is beyond customs.

The Ministry also points out that lorry drivers arriving by ferry must comply with the same rules.

โ€œThousands of jobs lostโ€

According to the union De Unie, the mandatory rapid test results in extreme damage to the Dutch economy. โ€œThe Cabinet may have announced the resignation of thousands of KLM people today,โ€ says President Reinier Castelein.

The union is particularly upset about the way in which the measure was announced. โ€œA national television broadcast in which the cabinet even pays attention to the exhaust of Max and Wodan. But the fact that KLM crews will also be covered by the test policy for entry has been concealed.โ€