KLM to retire Boeing 747s by 26 March

De Telegraaf reports that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the Netherlands’ national carrier, will be removing its remaining Boeing 747s by the end of March 2020. The date has been brought forward by the effect of the coronavirus, with the carrier having originally scheduled the aircraft to be retired in 2021.

One of KLM's Boeing 747 COMBI-configured planes - allowing the aircraft to carry a combination of both passengers and cargo. This particular aircraft was retired on 27 December, 2019. Photo by Brandon Ravelo │ AeroNewsX

KLM currently operates a fleet of 7 passenger (and COMBI) Boeing 747s and three cargo 747Fs. The cargo aircraft are to remain in service until further notice.

The news comes as the coronavirus continues to impact the carrier’s operations, including both its long-haul and short-haul flights. A pilot shortage is also said to have played a part in the latest decision.

Rumours are spreading that the airline will also ground 4 of its 7 Boeing 747s, with the remaining three flying on services to New York JFK, Mexico City and Los Angeles. While the airline would have liked to organise farewell celebrations, KLM is still undecided as a result of the coronavirus.

The final flight is rumoured to be on 26 March, 2020, from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Los Angeles.

In recent months, airlines around the globe have been struggling as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Air France-KLM is no exception, with the group announcing significant cuts to their network as demand plummets to what seems to be at an all time low.

One of KLM's remaining 7 Boeing 747s still in service with the carrier pictured arriving at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Photo by Chris de Breun │ AeroNewsX

In the last 48 hours, US President Donald Trump announced that travel restrictions would be placed onto all flights arriving from the 26 countries in the Schengen Area. Therefore, flights from Britain, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Turkey and Ukraine are not affected by the changes. The travel restrictions apply to anyone that isn’t a permanent American resident. Also exempted from the restrictions include spouses, parents or siblings of American citizens or permanent residents, members of the U.S. military and their spouses and children.

This is a major blow to most major European airlines, including Air France KLM. The group said in a press release that the US accounts for almost 16.8% of its network passenger activity.

Furthermore, the transatlantic market to the US is 15% of the group’s network passenger revenues.

“The aircraft load factors and the profitability on these concerned routes are foreseen to be negatively impacted and remain uncertain at this stage,” the group said in a press release.

In the past, at least in terms of load factors, the United States has been quite good for Air France KLM. For example, for the month of July 2019 (typically a popular month for travel), KLM managed a load factor of 97% on its services between Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Meanwhile on its flights to New York JFK, the airline reached a 93% seat utilisation factor.

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