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UPDATE: Per a KLM announcement made on Saturday 23 January, an agreement has been reached between the airline and the Dutch government which will ensure that KLM will not suspend all long-haul operations.
Although it is yet to be confirmed by the airline, it is being widely reported that KLM will temporarily halt all long-haul operations from tomorrow, 22 January 2021, following the introduction of new travel restrictions by the government of the Netherlands.
Yesterday, the government of the Netherland held a press conference in which it announced proposals for new domestic restrictions (curfew, limits on visitors within homes, etc…) as it tries to find ways to stop the spread of the new coronavirus variant that was originally first detected in the UK.
The Netherlands has already banned flights from the UK, South Africa, and South America (bans that are not expected to be lifted for at least a month), it already requires pre-departure COVID testing and it has already issued a “do not travel” order that’s valid through 31 March, but more restrictions are on the way.
Among the new measures announced in yesterday’s press conference, the Dutch government said that from 23 January 2021, it will require all passengers traveling to the Netherlands or the Dutch islands in the Caribbean, by air or sea, to produce a negative result from a rapid COVID-19 test that was taken no more than four hours prior to boarding their aircraft or ship when traveling from high-risk areas. This requirement is in addition to the existing mandatory negative test result from a PCR test performed no more than 72 hours before arrival in the Netherlands.
In addition, travelers are expected to self-quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the Netherlands but may take a PCR test after 5 days and end their quarantine period early if that test comes back negative.
Although not specifically mentioned in the press conference, it is believed that the new testing requirements will apply to cabin crew as well as passengers so, with only a limited number of ports around the world offering rapid COVID testing that can return a result within 4 hours, the new rules are about to put serious restrictions on travel to the Netherlands.
As a result of all of this news, Reuters has reported that a spokesperson for KLM has said that the airline will temporarily halt all its long-haul flights (of which there are 270) from Friday, 22 January 2021.
At the time of writing, KLM does not appear to have made an official statement confirming this news – its news page and Twitter account have been silent on the matter – but there’s every reason to believe that this proposed halt to flights is very real.
For most travelers based in the US, this news won’t have too much effect as they haven’t been allowed to fly to the European Union since early last year. However, US travelers booked to travel to Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten (all of whom are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), should check their destination’s entry requirements very carefully as the new regulations announced by the Dutch government appear to cover travel to these islands as well as travel to the mother country in Europe.
KLM is expected to announce that following the introduction of the new travel restrictions announced by the government of the Netherlands yesterday, it will be suspending all of its long-haul flights from Friday 22 January. There’s also a chance that further cuts will be made to the airline’s short-haul network, but we’ll have to wait for an official announcement before we know more.