KLM Turns 100

Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of the world’s oldest airlines and the oldest airline still flying under its original name.

The airline celebrated its centenary on Monday, October 7 with more than 3500 friends, frequent flyers and supporters at a party inside an airplane hangar at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

At the birthday party, there was cake, of course. And speeches.

But everyone in attendance was anxious to find out which historical or architecturally significant Dutch building was being portrayed in KLM’s 100th miniature Delft blue house.

These small porcelain houses are filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) and are highly collectible. They are gifted to passengers flying on intercontinental flights in KLM’s World Business Class cabins.

KLM Then and Now

Courtesy KLM

While KLM was officially established on October 7, 1919, the airline’s first flight took place on May 17, 1920, on a leased De Havilland DH-16 flown from London to Amsterdam.

The airline started buying its own airplanes in 1921; transported its first large animal (a stud bull named Nico V) in 1924 and began flying with designated cabin crew to attend to passenger comfort and safety in 1935.

Courtesy KLM

The airline’s inflight magazine – the Holland Herald – was first published in 1966 and is now the oldest inflight magazine in the world

After a 2004 merger, KLM became part of the Air France – KLM Group and today KLM flies to 162 destinations, employs 33,000 people worldwide and has a fleet of more than 214 aircraft.

The airline carries more than 34 million passengers and more than 620,000 tons of cargo a year.

“Airlines operate in an incredibly competitive environment,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM President & CEO “Fuel prices, geopolitical issues, and exchange rates are among the many outside issues that affect our business and can make it tough to operate the airline.”

While other airlines have come and gone, KLM’s longevity, said Elbers, has a lot to do with innovative and pioneering with its operations and its ability to respond to trends in a timely manner.

For example, KLM was an early adopter of social media to serve and engage customers.

Today the airline has a social media team of about 350, one of the largest in the world. Agents are on duty daily, tackling about 35,000 customer service cases a week, in 10 different languages, via WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and other platforms. Artificial intelligence systems help as well.

KLM and sustainability

KLM flew the first biofuel flight, to Paris, in June 2011. And in March 2013, the airline operated the first intercontinental flight with biofuel, to New York.

The airline now has wide-ranging sustainability programs, including the unusual “Fly Responsibly” program which encourages people not to fly – or to fly less often.

Videos and ads ask customers, “Do you always need to meet face-to-face? Could you take the train instead? Could you contribute by compensating your CO2 emissions, or packing light.?”

“It may seem radical for an airline to ask people to consider other options than flying, but we see it as a pioneering approach to creating a more sustainable future in aviation for all of us,” said Boet Kreiken, Executive Vice President Customer Experience, KLM.

As part of the campaign, KLM recently announced that starting March 29, 2020, it will be replacing one of its daily flights between Brussels and Amsterdam with seats on the Thalys high-speed train.

KLM is also supporting the Delft University of Technology efforts to develop the Flying-V, a highly energy-efficient long-distance airplane design that puts the passenger cabin, the cargo holds and the fuel tanks in the wings of an unusual v-shaped aircraft.

The 100th KLM Miniature Delft house

Courtesy KLM

Each year KLM marks its October 7 anniversary by revealing a new Delftware miniature house.

Past miniature houses have depicted everything from the Anne Frank House and the Rembrandt House to the Palace on Dam Square.

For its 100th anniversary, KLM chose a replica of Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, the home of the Netherland’s King Willem-Alexander and his family.

The new miniature house is being given to passengers business class passengers flying intercontinental flights, but we’ve already spotted it on eBay for about $65.

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