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KLM Drops Threat to Suspend Long-Haul Flights With New Testing Rules

KLM Drops Threat to Suspend Long-Haul Flights With New Testing Rules

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Dutch flag-carrier KLM has dropped a threat to suspend its entire long-haul operation after it came to an agreement with the Dutch government over new pre-departure testing rules.

Mark Rutte’s government recently introduced new pre-departure testing rules that require passengers to take a PCR test within 72-hours of departure and a second rapid antigen test within four hours of departure. The rules apply to travellers from all high-risk destinations and, controversially, did not exempt crew.

There are currently only 17 countries and territories on the Dutch list of safe countries where the double testing rule is not in place.

KLM reacted with anger to the proposal, saying it would have no choice but to cancel all long-haul flights while the rules were in place. The airline is operating around 270 long-haul services per week at the moment.

The airline had feared that crew members who tested positive within hours of departure would be abandoned in a foreign country. A spokesperson said KLM never leaves its crew members behind.

While the Dutch government had considered banning all flights to prevent the importation of new variants of the COVID-19 virus, ministers eventually relented when they realised the damage it would do to the Netherlands supply chain.

“After constructive consultations with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), KLM has developed a safe alternative testing protocol for crews,” the airline said in a statement on Saturday night.

Pilots and cabin crew will now be tested before departure from the Netherlands and then on arrival at Schipol Airport. KLM has also agreed to implement new safety rules for crew when they are abroad, including mandatory quarantine.

“Keeping flight operations running in a safe and responsible manner is and remains KLM’s priority, also since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020,” the airline statement continued.

“This has enabled us to maintain essential travel, repatriation and the transport of necessary cargo so far.”

The double testing rules will remain in place for passengers for the foreseeable future. Flights to the United Kingdom, South Africa and South America also remain banned with the exception of cargo only flights.

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