KLM

Snaps from the ‘reveal’ of KLM’s Delftware miniature house #98

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrated its 98th anniversary on Friday by adding a new Delftware miniature house – #98 – to its collection.

This year’s house depicts the family home of aviation pioneer Antony Fokker in Haarlem, near Amsterdam and was presented at an event in Haarlem’s historic St. Bavo Church.

President & CEO Pieter Elbers presented the first copy of the new miniature to Jos Wienen, the Mayor of Haarlem. The second copy of the new house miniature house went to Erik Harverkorn, the current owner and occupant of the real Fokker house.

A closer look at house #98.

 

KLM’s Delftware miniature houses are given as a gift to KLM business class passengers flying on long haul international flights. 1 per customer, per flight.

More snaps to follow…

KLM offering Amsterdam travelers a ‘care tag’

Thinking of heading to Amsterdam?

September, when all the college kids and summer tourists clear out, might be a good time to go.

And if you do, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has what may be a fun – free – travel gadget for you.

For travelers going to Amsterdam in September, KLM has created a “Care Tag,” which it describes as a smart audio luggage tag with a built-in offline GPS module and a speaker that automatically provides verbal tips (recorded by KLM crew members) on how to travel in the city.

KLM says the tips include alerts on busy intersections with a lot of cyclists, where and how to lock your bike, and when you should watch out for pickpockets, where to taste local food for free, where to see great street art, or where to rent a bike or boat.

How do you get a tag?  KLM says passengers traveling to Amsterdam in September will be able to order their  tag on line for free. The first batch of Care Tags will speak English, but Care Tags that speak Chinese, Portuguese, German and Russian will be available later this year.

I’m checking to see if just a speaker on the tags or if you can plug in a set of headphones.

And, while the Lost and Found pup was cute – but not real – KLM reps say the Care Tag is real thing.

 

 

KLM embraces Twitter & WeChat for flight info, updates

Last year, social media-savvy KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was the first airline outside the US  to start offering customers flight info service via Facebook’s Messenger and now 10 percent of all bookings on KLM are confirmed this way and 15 percent of all online boarding passes KLM issues are delivered via Messenger.

KLM counts that as success so now the carrier says it is the first to roll out delivery of flight info – including booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding passes and flight status updates – via Twitter and WeChat, the social media tool popular in China.

“The world is becoming more digital. And as a company with 98 years of history, we feel we should continue to be pioneers in innovation and embrace new technology as we did with Facebook,” Pieter Elbers, KLM President and CEO told StuckatTheAirport.com.

He said while Twitter is an important communication tool, WeChat is crucial for KLM to embrace as, after the US, China is KLM’s second largest market outside Europe.

How do horses, dolphins and stud bulls fly?

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Horses on Air Horse One/Photo: Harriet Baskas

For my ‘At the Airport’ column on USA TODAY this month, I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky’s Blue Grass Airport and to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to learn how horses and other animals fly.

In Lexington, it was all about horses and Air Horse One, the leased 727-200 aircraft the H.E. “Tex” Sutton Forwarding Company uses to fly valuable race horses and show horses around the country at ticket prices that top out at just shy of $5,000 for a one-way trip.

Fed Ex, UPS and large commercial airlines ship horses and other animals as cargo, but Tex Sutton – as the company is commonly known – began ferrying Kentucky Derby winners and other prized horses by air in 1969 and remains the one U.S based horse transportation company that uses a dedicated aircraft to do so.

Courtesy Blue Grass Airport

Courtesy Blue Grass Airport

At During my visit to Blue Grass Airport, Mike Payne, Tex Sutton’s operations manager explained that horses flying on the airline make their way between transport trailers and the airplane on custom-built ramps with high walls so that their feet never touch the ground and so there’s little chance of having a horse get loose at the airport.

Once on board, horses are loaded into specially built stalls that can be arranged two or three across inside the airplane. While the owners of some “celebrity” horses may charter the entire plane, Air Horse One can carry 18 to 20 horses per flight.

Thoroughbreds that have ‘pets,’ such as goats, that help calm them in stalls on the ground can bring their buddies along on the plane – like carry-on luggage – for no extra charge. The same goes for grooms, who travel as animal couriers and get regular seats in the back of the plane.

To accommodate their special cargo, the pilots of Air Horse One make wide turns and extra gentle ascents and descents to try to keep the horses from getting spooked or losing their balance.

“You don’t want to give them too many positive or negative G’s because their feet can slip out from under them and they can fall down,” said Payne, “Or they’ll get that floating sensation and start scrambling to find the floor.”

Like air ambulances and Air Force One, at airports around the country Air Horse One often gets preference when it comes time to take off.

And while Air Horse One predominantly hauls horses the airline recently transported someone’s 40-pound pet miniature cow and, separately, five dolphins.

“Everyone involved with those dolphins was very hush-hush,” said Payne, “They had a police escort and no one would say anything or answer questions, which made you think they were probably military dolphins.”

Courtesy KLM

Courtesy KLM

While Tex Sutton has been hauling horses by air since 1969, all manner of animals have been traveling as cargo on airplanes for much longer.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was already transporting bees and baby chicks in 1923, but in 1924 the carrier became the first commercial airline to transport a large live animal when it flew Nico, a valuable young stud bull, from Rotterdam to Paris.

Courtesy KLM

Courtesy KLM

In 1948, when The Hague was celebrating a major milestone, the Swiss capital of Bern sent two baby bears – via KLM – as a present.

And, a KLM blog post celebrating the carrier’s history describes, the post-World War II growth of KLM’s animal transport business came to include donkeys, tigers, elephants, horses, a giraffe, dolphins and “countless dogs and cats.”

Courtesy KLM

Courtesy KLM

Today, KLM has an “Animal Hotel” at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport that is billed as one of the world’s largest and most modern such facilities in the world.

And while I didn’t see any rhinos or lions during my tour of the animal hotel earlier I did see (and hear) towers of containers filled with one-day old chicks and trailers filled with thoroughbred horses patiently waiting to board their flights.

KLM’s 97th miniature Delftware House

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I had the great pleasure of being on-site in Rotterdam for the unveiling of KLM’s newest – and 97th – Delftware miniature house: a likeness of the Hotel New York.

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The hotel occupies the former headquarters of the Holland American Line and for many years, beginning in 1872, the company’s ships sailed between Rotterdam and New York and several other U.S. cities.

You can read my story about the big “reveal” – and KLM’s tradition of gifting these gin-filled tiny houses to business class passengers, on USA TODAY, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of miniature house #95- a likeness of the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam.

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