Passengers Stuck Inside KLM Planes Inbound From South Africa

Passengers onboard two KLM flights that arrived from South Africa earlier today appear to be stranded on the aircraft at Schiphol. The passengers are being held while they await the results of a COVID test, as Europe continues to shut down connections to southern Africa over worries of a new variant of the virus. Passengers were eventually allowed to disembark after spending around four hours on the plane.

KLM A330 Getty
Passengers were stuck onboard for almost four hours, and are still stuck in the airport. Photo: Getty Images

Stuck on the planes

Two KLM flights arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport today carrying passengers from destinations in South Africa. However, during the time it had taken the aircraft to fly to Europe, the Dutch government had issued a ban on passengers arriving from South Africa, amid worries of a new COVID variant that has surfaced in the region.

At around 10 am this morning, the Netherlands banned all flights from Southern Africa, adding several countries to the list of very high-risk areas. The countries involved are Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. With the flight ban came a ban on people from those countries entering the Netherlands, although Dutch residents still retain the right to come back.

When the KLM flights landed, one from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg, the pilots were informed that the passengers could not enter the country. To begin with, the information was very vague, with pilots relaying to the passengers that they would endeavor to find out more. The below video was shared at 10:16 GMT.

After around an hour of holding, the passengers were informed that they would be allowed to disembark in order to go to the testing center at the airport. What happened next would depend on the outcome of the tests. It was an unwelcome end to their trip for these passengers, who were now into their 14th hour of being onboard.

Free at last?

However, the ordeal wasn’t over right away. Around 40 minutes after posting the above video, the same Twitter user noted that the process wasn’t entirely straightforward. She said,

“Hitch in the rope. The Hague does not give the green light for the disembark protocol. I hear some grumbling around me.”

 At just after 13:00 GMT, the passengers were informed that they would indeed be allowed to leave the aircraft. The pilots informed them that a bus would arrive to take them to the terminal, where they would be placed in a separate room to await the results of their tests. Finally, at 13:45 GMT, the passengers began disembarking to the waiting busses.

The passenger vlogging her experience showed a crowded room of passengers waiting for their test in the terminal at just before 15:00 GMT. She expressed concern that everything seemed to be happening very slowly, and that little social distancing was in place at the airport.

Her latest update, issued at just after 16:00 GMT / 17:00 in Amsterdam, suggested that people were still waiting to be tested. Even now, there has apparently been no information on what will happen after the test results are received, or whether they can go home tonight.

Rapid changes to travel restrictions such as is being seen across Europe right now will always have a fallout. It is these human stories that often get overlooked when significant changes are instigated. Simple Flying sends the passengers on these flights our best wishes and hope that everyone gets home soon.