Coronavirus Prompts First KLM Flight To Sydney In 20 Years

Late yesterday evening, flight KL827 took off from Schiphol Airport on its way to Sydney via Kuala Lumpur. Its mission: to bring back stranded Dutch travelers from the Australian continent on the first KLM flight to Sydney in 20 years. 

KLM Boeing 777 to Sydney
A KLM Boeing 777 took off from Schiphol for Sydney on Thursday. Photo: KLM

KLM Boeing 777 to Sydney

The skies over Amsterdam have been eerily quiet of late. But if you had looked out at around 20:55 Thursday evening, you would have caught a glimpse of something very unusual as a Boeing 777-200ER in KLM colors departed on its way to Sydney, Australia. The flight is part of an airlift operation taking place over the coming weeks to bring back almost 2,000 Dutch travelers. 

“We are proud to be meaningful in this way during this global crisis,” said Rene de Groot, KLM COO in a statement released yesterday. “These flights are extra special in KLM’s history. We have had a strong relationship with Australia since 1950, as the country has been a valuable destination in our network for over 50 years. It is now the first time in 20 years that another KLM aircraft lands at Sydney Airport.”

Pit-stops and transfers in KL

The aircraft will make its way to the Australian city via Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It will then land in Sydney on the 4th of April. The aircraft will take off back for Europe on the 5th, making the same stop as it did on the way there, landing back in Amsterdam on the 6th.

The trip will then be repeated from the 6th to the 10th of April. After that KLM will operate four more flights to Kuala Lumpur, where it will pick up passengers transferring from Australia with partner Malaysian Airlines. 

KLM vintage poster
In 1951, it would take five stops before reaching Sydney from Amsterdam. Photo: KLM

Five stops on a DC-4 in 1950

A KLM passenger flight flew from the Netherlands to Sydney for the first time on the 7th of December 1950. Back then it would take three and a half days to get there. The route went from Amsterdam via Cairo, Karachi, Bangkok, Singapore, and Darwin, before finally landing in Sydney.

Passengers would spend the nights in hotels in Pakistan, Thailand, and Singapore. The flights were operated on Douglas DC-4 aircraft that could comfortably seat 59 adults.

KLM DC-4
KLM operated the DC-4 from Amsterdam to Sydney. Photo: Joost J. Bakker via Wikimedia Commons

 The airline continued to go on back and forth to Sydney for 50 years until the partnership with Malaysian Air System, today’s Malaysia Airlines, was expanded. KLM then increased the flights to Kuala Lumpur, with passengers transferring to Malaysian Airlines onwards to Australia and New Zealand. Since October 2018, KLM also has codeshare agreements with Qantas. 

Coronavirus Prompts First KLM Flight To Sydney In 20 Years
The slightly more modern 777 will make the journey in 23 hours. Photo. KLM

Repatriation supported by the Dutch government

The KLM repatriation flights are arranged via the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the airline did not reply to questions whether or not passengers would be charged commercial rates for the Malaysian Airlines flights from Australia to Kuala Lumpur.

According to the statement from KLM, any traveler wanting to register as eligible for the airlift flights can register at www.bijzonderebijstandbuitenland.nl and emergency centers will then coordinate and organize necessary air transport for the return. 

What is the most stops you have done to get to where you were heading in one go? Has coronavirus had you fly any unusual routes? Let us know in the comments!  

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