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The Netherlands

Dutch King lets passenger on overbooked flight sit in cockpit

By RVD, Jeroen van der Meyde, Wiki Commons

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands is a well-known pilot. He thinks flying is fun and trained as a pilot for the national Dutch air-operator, KLM. This week, a special thing happened on one of a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Paris, under the charge of the Dutch king.

The flight was overbooked and it was Willem-Alexander who came up with the great solution that made one passenger very happy. During boarding, it was made clear that the flight was one seat short and it seemed that one person had to be left in Amsterdam. The king and captain then decided that the person who was in danger of being left behind at Schiphol could take the extra seat in the cockpit.

Another great surprise was that the ground staff who handled this flight didn’t know who the pilot was. The lucky cockpit-passenger could reveal to Dutch media that both himself and the staff were quite shocked when they saw who was flying the plane.

King Willem-Alexander in a fighter jet in 2019. Photo: Defensie via Wikimedia Commons.

It was in mid-May of 2017 that it was revealed that His Majesty has secretly, for the last 21 years, operated as a pilot for KLM. The King has flown twice a month as a co-pilot on commercial KLM flights, while passengers had no idea of who the pilot was. It was known publicly that he occasionally flew to keep his up with his hours, but no one knew just how much the King was flying.

It became clear in 2017 that the Dutch king was getting extra training and was later authorized to fly a Boeing 737 for KLM. Until this year, the King was flying the Fokker 70 planes for KLM, now he is exclusively flying the Boeing 737.

“I find flying simply fantastic,” said His Majesty to the press mid-May this year. The King has explained that flying for him was one of his biggest ways of relaxing. King Willem-Alexander could also disclose that he never used his name when he was addressing passengers and was rarely recognised in his KLM uniform. Even though he is not often recognized, in November 2018 an observant passenger saw the king when he operated a KLM flight to Turkey. “It is not every day you are piloted by a King. It will be an unforgettable memory for me.”, said one of the passengers to Dutch press back in 2018.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.