KLM plans to cancel between 50-60% of their flights, and staff are concerned that the Dutch aviation company is heading for bankruptcy.
After cabinet’s announcement yesterday that rapid negative tests will be required to travel back to the Netherlands, and connections between the UK, South Africa and South America are banned, KLM has decided to stop all long-distance flights.
A negative PCR test — which must be no more than 72 hours old upon arrival in the Netherlands — was already a requirement for anyone travelling to the Netherlands. But now the additional rapid test, which takes just 15 minutes to give a result, is creating new problems for KLM.
The company’s main concern is that with the additional testing requirement, employees who test positive for COVID-19 will be stuck in faraway countries for days, reports RTL Nieuws. “As a good employer, we never leave crew behind abroad,” says KLM.
Flights to European destinations where staff are required to stay overnight in a hotel will also be cancelled for the same reasons, reports NU.nl.
The union president Reinier Castelein agrees with this decision, referring to destinations like Nairobi and Abu Dhabi. “There you cannot leave a 30-year-old flight attendant who does not speak the language alone,” he says. “And with an even stricter lockdown you might not return for weeks.”
Panic among employees
The Union represents around 2,300 of the 13,000 KLM ground workers and says they have been getting many desperate calls from worried employees fearing for their jobs. “But I also get a lot of calls from worried and even crying flight attendants and pilots,” says Castelein. “There is panic.”
KLM had pleaded with The Hague to exempt company workers from the rapid test requirement, but they were refused. Castelein says the Netherlands is the only country asking this of flight crew and that “the government is killing the entire sector in this way.”
Unclear exactly which flights will be chopped
KLM is yet to announce exactly which flights they will be cancelling, or when the planes will be grounded. “There are going to be a number of things, but we are currently coordinating which flights are involved,” a KLM spokesperson told NU.
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Feature Image: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines