King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has surprised passengers on a scheduled flight to Turkey by turning up as the plane’s co-pilot.
The Dutch monarch was the co-pilot on duty on KLM flight 1613 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Saturday.
Only the KLM crew were notified in advance of the king’s appearance on the Boeing 737-800 flight, which took two hours and 50 minutes.
However, some passengers recognised the 51-year-old Dutch royal when they boarded the aircraft.
King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands looks out of the window of a KLM plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (file photo). He was the co-pilot on a flight to Istanbul last week
Passenger Can Unsalan said: ‘It is not every day you are piloted by a king. It will be an unforgettable memory for me.’
He said he was ‘a bit concerned’ knowing that King Willem-Alexander is a part-time pilot only, but said that both the take-off and landing were ‘good’ and that he ‘wrote him a letter, thanking him’.
All 131 passengers were eventually notified on landing that the pilot on the flight was the Dutch king.
The king also flew the return journey from Istanbul back to Amsterdam, according to reports.
It emerged last year that Willem-Alexander had been quietly flying for KLM for more than 20 years.
The monarch – who succeeded his mother Beatrix on the Dutch throne in 2013 – has frequently captained his own royal plane, formerly a Fokker 70, when going on state visits abroad.
Willem-Alexander (right), pictured in the cockpit of a KLM plane, said most passengers do not notice him since cockpit security was tightened after the 9/11 attacks in the United States
The monarch, pictured wearing sunglasses in the cockpit on an earlier flight, will continue flying for KLM to reach the 150 yearly flight hours needed for his licence
As those hours in the sky were not enough to get his licence, he agreed with national airline KLM to fly to European destinations with the airline’s Fokker 70s.
The Fokkers were later discontinued and the Dutch government bought a new Boeing 737 to be converted into a royal plane for 2019, forcing the king to get a new licence.
It is expected that the Dutch king will continue flying for KLM to reach the 150 yearly flight hours needed.
Willem-Alexander has previously said he is rarely recognised by passengers in his uniform, especially since security was tightened on board planes in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
He said: ‘Before September 11, the cockpit door was open. People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there.’
KLM also uses its Boeing 737 to fly to many British destinations such as London, Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow.