The king of the Netherlands has secretly been flying airplanes for a Dutch commercial airline for 21 years

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.
(Image credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

King Willem-Alexander does more than just preside over the Netherlands — twice a month for the past 21 years he has secretly worked as a co-pilot for the Dutch commercial airline KLM, The New York Times reports.

"The advantage is that I can always say that I wish everyone a heartfelt welcome in the name of the captain and the crew," Willem-Alexander, 50, revealed to the Netherland's De Telegraaf newspaper. "So I don't have to say my own name. But most of the people don't listen anyway."

Willem-Alexander admitted he is rarely recognized when he's wearing his uniform, and that it became easier to hide from his passengers after restrictions limited access to cockpits following the September 11 attacks. He said he finds flying relaxing: "For me the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate completely. You have an airplane, passengers, and a crew. You carry responsibility for that. You cannot take your problems from the ground with you in the sky. You can for a brief moment disconnect and concentrate on something else. That is the biggest relaxation of flying to me."

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Willem-Alexander, who has been king since 2013, flies exclusively for the KLM subsidiary Cityhopper, which provides regional connections between nearby European cities. Willem-Alexander said he won't take time to learn how to fly the larger planes because he cannot take overnight stops in case he needs to get back to the Netherlands during an emergency.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.