Dutch King Reveals The Surprising Part-Time Job He's Had For Two Decades

He calls it his "hobby," and has managed to not be recognized.

Countless passengers flying with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines over the past two decades have had no idea that one of their pilots was literal royalty.  

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands revealed this week that he's been quietly co-piloting commercial airline flights for KLM's Cityhopper service — which provides short-haul flights within Europe — twice a month for the past 21 years. Prior to that, he flew for Dutch carrier Martinair. The king told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he finds flying "simply fantastic" — so much so that he kept doing it even after acceding to the throne in 2013.

His love of flying wasn't a secret to the public, as he served in the Royal Netherlands Air Force and, according to the BBC, he appeared as a "guest pilot" to keep his pilot's license. But few were aware he had such a regular co-piloting gig.


Willem-Alexander says he was recognized more often before the 9/11 attacks, when the cockpit door was open. "People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there," he told the paper, according to the Guardian.

Since security has tightened, the king said he's now rarely recognized in his uniform, and he doesn't give his name when making announcements. "Most people don't listen anyway," he said.

For Willem-Alexander, flying is a "hobby" that helps him focus on something other his royal responsibilities. "You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them," he told De Telegraaf. "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."

The king previously flew KLM's Fokker 70s, which are being retired. He now plans to train on Boeing 737s, and reportedly said in this week's interview that he would like "to fly to other destinations one day, with more passengers and bigger distances."

(H/T: NPR)

Cover image: Marcel Alsemgeest / Shutterstock.com


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.