KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is forced to reduce its workforce by another 1.000 with almost immediate effect. Slower than expected recovery from the Covid-crisis until deeper into 2021 means that the carrier has to refer to another scenario and cut further into its workforce.

In 2020, KLM cut 5.000 jobs across the airline. The extra 1.000 will again affect all fronts, but cabin crew will be hurt the most with 500 full-time equivalent redundancies. Union VNC says that forced layoffs will be inevitable as voluntary measures have all been used. KLM Cityhopper escapes the new round of redundancies as its production targets remain unchanged. Cityhopper has played an instrumental role in keeping KLM’s network alive as it benefits from its smaller Embraer fleet. Some 200 to 400 ground staff will be made redundant as well. The remainder is 100 cockpit crew.

With voluntary measures and the non-renewal of temporary contracts, KLM reduced its workforce by 3.500 last year. As this wasn’t sufficient, another 1.500 had to go: 500 ground staff, 300 cabin crew, 300 cockpit crew, and 400 at KLM subsidiaries and Air France-KLM Group level. After tough negotiations with unions, KLM reached a social plan in October but the unrest returned when pilot union VNV initially refused to adhere to additional conditions set out in the 3.4 billion government rescue plan. Only at the last minute, VNV agreed to an extension of the austerity measures until 2025.

Exemption received for rapid Covid tests 
The next round of redundancies comes at a tense moment. KLM CEO Pieter Elbers announced on January 20 that his airline would be forced to stop all intercontinental and some European services if it had to meet the latest Covid-requirements imposed by the Dutch government on January 22. According to these requirements, all air travelers entering The Netherlands will have to present a PCR test not older than 72 hours as well as a rapid test not older than four hours before departure. All crew would have to comply with these rules.

By doing so, positively tested crew would risk being stranded in a remote country and forced into quarantine for up to two weeks. Elbers said he was unwilling to accept this and asked the government for help, but initially, Secretary of Transport Cora van Nieuwenhuizen denied the airline an exemption to the ruling.

This changed by mid-day on the 22nd, when union VNC announced that the crew had been given the exemption on a rapid test on services to the Dutch Antilles as well as to Iceland, Australia, New-Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore, and Rwanda. On the 23rd, KLM announced that an agreement was reached that will allow its long-haul services to continue: crew will have to do a rapid antigen test on departure from and at the return to Amsterdam Schiphol. This means crew no longer runs the risk of being stranded abroad, although they have to comply with strict rules like staying in their hotel rooms.

From January 23, all flights from the UK, South Africa, and South America will be banned as part of a government ruling to prevent the spreading of the mutated coronavirus.

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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