Fresh lockdowns prompt KLM capacity cuts

Tougher travel restrictions imposed across parts of Europe to help curb a second wave of COVID-19 cases have forced KLM to cut its planned seat capacity and flight frequencies.

The SkyTeam member will reduce capacity within Europe to around 40% of pre-coronavirus levels over the coming months—down from the 50% it intended to operate before the latest lockdowns. Service will be suspended to a number of destinations, primarily to points in the UK.

The UK government imposed a month-long national lockdown for England from Nov. 5, resulting in the closure of non-essential shops, bars and restaurants. No overseas travel is permitted, except for specific reasons.

Elsewhere in Europe, France entered a new lockdown on Oct. 30, which prevents people leaving their homes unless for work, to buy essential goods, seek medical help or to exercise, while Germany imposed new restrictions on Nov. 2 that strongly discourage all non-essential travel.

A three-tier framework and further nationwide restrictions have also come into force in Italy, and Spain declared a new state of emergency on Oct. 25 that requires all citizens to remain home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

In the Netherlands, KLM’s home country, a partial four-week lockdown is in place, with people advised to stay at home and work from home as much as possible.

Despite the planned capacity cuts, KLM said it would continue to fly to 90-95% of the European destinations it served before the crisis.

“During the course of the pandemic, KLM strategically opted to restore service to as many of its network destinations as possible,” the airline said in a statement.

“In response to the prevailing circumstances, we are doing so with fewer flights and smaller aircraft. This means our customers have the widest possible choice of destinations, enabling us to maintain our network through our Amsterdam (AMS) hub.”

According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, KLM is this week (w/c Nov. 9) offering 270,000 departure seats within Europe across 81 destinations. This compares with 620,000 seats within Europe and 88 destinations during the same week a year ago.

In terms of intercontinental services, KLM’s passenger flights will be around 50-60% of pre-COVID levels. The airline said it would continue to operate a “flexible” network and expects to open new routes to make up for declining demand on other services.

Starting on Dec. 10, KLM is adding a 2X-weekly operations to Zanzibar (ZNZ) in Tanzania, with a stop in Dar es Salaam (DAR) on the return leg to AMS.

From Jan. 4, 2021, Riyadh (RUH) in Saudi Arabia will re-join KLM’s network after an absence of more than two decades. The carrier will offer four weekly flights to the Saudi capital from AMS.

Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week Network

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.