“Welcome aboard ladies and gentlemen, this is your King speaking.”
Thousands of passengers on a European airline have been welcomed aboard flights by a friendly co-pilot in recent years.
One thing he may have failed to mention though is that he is, in fact, a king.
Those who have travelled with the Dutch airline KLM have ben stunned to learn they may well have been conducted through the clouds by royalty now that Dutch King Willem-Alexander has revealed he’s secretly been co-piloting flights over the past two decades.
Refreshingly down-to-earth, the 50-year-old refers to flying as a “hobby” that serves as an escape from his day-to-day royal duties, overseeing his 17 million Dutch subjects.
He typically flies for the airline’s Cityhopper services twice a month.
It was public knowledge that the King had qualified as a pilot, but it was not known that he had continued flying since his coronation in 2013.
“I find flying simply fantastic. You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them,” he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraafs.
“You can’t take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else.
“That, for me, is the most relaxing part of flying.”
He said he plans to continue regular flights with the airline as a special “guest pilot”.
Over the next few months he intends to undergo further training, this time in Boeing 737s, as the Fokker 70s he usually co-pilots are being phased out.
The Dutch King said he was unable to fly larger aircraft, as they fly the longer routes and oblige the crew to stay overnight – not a practical situation when your day job involves presiding over a bustling nation.
“I cannot get back in time to The Netherlands in case of an emergency,” he explained.
The King said his voice was rarely recognised and he was only occasionally identified while passing through the airport.
He added: “Most people don’t listen anyway.”
Curious passengers will just have to keep guessing. The King’s presence in the cockpit is never announced for security reasons.
– with agencies