KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL, Amsterdam Schiphol) will suspend 270 weekly long-haul flights and some European routes to the Netherlands from January 23, 2021, after the Dutch government tightened lockdown measures in response to concerns about new variants of COVID-19.

In a statement issued on January 20, the government announced a ban on flights from the United Kingdom, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The ban takes effect at 0001L on Saturday, January 23, (2301Z on Friday, January 22) and is expected to remain in force for one month, or until planned legislation on mandatory quarantine rules for travellers is in place.

The government has also issued a strict travel advisory to Dutch nationals not travel abroad until March 31, 2021.

All passengers travelling to the Netherlands by air from high-risk areas must be able to produce a negative result of a rapid COVID-19 test performed shortly before their departure. The test must not have been performed more than four hours prior to boarding the aircraft. This is in addition to the existing mandatory negative test result for a PCR test performed no more than 72 hours before arrival in the Netherlands. These measures also apply to people travelling to the Caribbean parts of the Netherlands.

Travellers must self-quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the Netherlands. After five days they can get tested. If the result of this PCR test is negative they may end their self-quarantine.

A KLM spokesperson told ch-aviation by email that an antigen test was also being imposed on crews travelling from abroad to the Netherlands. "This means that we run the risk of having to leave crew members behind if tested positive. We do not find that acceptable as an employer."

"If it is not decided in the parliamentary debate on these measures to exempt the crew from the antigen testing obligation, we will therefore have to intervene drastically in our network as soon as the antigen test measure for crew travelling from abroad to the Netherlands is officially introduced. This means that, in addition to the flight bans, we as KLM can no longer fly on the entire intercontinental network and must stop all night stops on Europe. The network will then be limited to a very limited number of flights and approximately 10 ~ 15 destinations in Europe."

The government has also decided to reduce the number of exemptions from an existing travel ban on travellers from countries outside of the EU. As a result, business travellers, students, highly-skilled migrants, professionals from the cultural and creative sectors, and people in long-distance romantic relationships wishing to travel to the Netherlands for a short period will no longer be granted entry.

A host of other local measures are being imposed until at least February 9, 2021, including a curfew, limitations on visitors per household, mandatory work from home, the closure of most shops, entertainment, indoor sports facilities, and remote teaching for schools. Hotels may remain open, but restaurants are closed.

Editorial Comment: Added comment from KLM spokesperson. - 22.01.2021 - 15:25 UTC