Airlines

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.

KLM turns 100 on Oct 7

KLM, Royal Dutch Airways, turns 100 on October 7 and celebrations marking the milestone event are already underway.

A great exhibit drawing from KLM’s extensive collection of more the 250,000 images has been on view at the Amsterdam City Archives.

And on October 7, a hoopla event will take place in a KLM hangar at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. During that party, the much-awaited ‘reveal’ of the 100th tiny Delft house filled with Bols Genever (a Dutch gin) will take place.

The small houses are a given out as complimentary gifts to travelers flying World Business Class and there’s always a wave of excitement in the cabin when the cart with the houses start being rolled down the aisle.

Stuck at the Airport will on hand for this year’s big reveal and we’ll share details on that as soon as we’re able.

Stuck at The Airport was honored to be on site for the reveal of KLM’s 97th miniature Delft House, which was made in the likeness of the Hotel New York in Rotterdam.

The hotel is on the site of 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.

Stuck at the Airport was also onsite for the reveal of KLM’s miniature Delft house #98 – which depicts the family home of aviation pioneer Antony Fokker.

In advance of its birthday, KLM has been busy with events, promotions and announcements celebrating the company’s past – and looking to the future.

Take a look at these two short videos, especially the “Fly Responsibly” video that actually encourages travelers not to fly.

Snaps from Virgin Atlantic A350 cabin reveal

I was delighted to join Virgin Atlantic earlier this week for a fun A350-cabin interior ‘reveal’ party at the company’s crew training facilities (“The Base”) in Crawley, near London’s Gatwick Airport.

My story detailing posh new features that include upgraded Upper Class suites in the business class cabin and the transformation of the Upper Class bar area into a multi-purpose gathering area called “The Loft” is on SFGate.

But sharing some snaps of the mock-up that was on display during the evening here on Stuck at The Airport.

Upper Class suites on Virgin Atlantic’s A350s will now face the windows. That’s a change from the current layout that has them facing the aisles.
The popular bar area behind the Upper Class cabin will now be “The Loft” – with space for 8 people (3 standing, five seated), power ports and Bluetooth headset ports so groups can watch movies or video programs together.
Premium seats on the Virgin Atlantic A350 planes will have four-way headrests and this nice footrest feature. Photo Harriet Baskas
Fabric-covered economy seats have two USB ports and 6-way headrests. Photo Harriet Baskas

Virgin Atlantic’s first A350 – named Red Velvet – will start flying in August, 2019 between London Heathrow and New York JFK, followed by other services to JFK later in the year.

The carrier has 12 Airbus A350-1000s on order, and plans to have all of them flying by 2012 as a replacement for the airline’s 747s.

WOW Air shuttered and airlines, bus lines, travel companies try to help

Beleaguered WOW Air shut down on Thursday, posting a note on its website that all flights had been canceled.

For tickets holders stranded in various cities and airports, and those with tickets for future dates, WOW Air suggests contacting your travel agent or credit card issuer for help and offers this advice:

“Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances.”

As of Thursday evening, here’s what airlines, travel companies and even a bus company is offering WOW Air ticket holders in terms of “rescue” assistance:

Early in the day, the Hopper booking site announced that all customers who booked WOW Air flights through its site would get full refunds.

“Hopper will also be paying the full cost of rebooking for all its stranded passengers in transit.”

A variety of airlines are offering WOW Air tickets holders discounted rates on rebooked flights.

Icelandair has a posted a list of discounted Economy fares for stranded passengers en route to, from, or through Iceland. The fares are only available for passengers already on their journey, with a return WOW AIr ticket between now and April 11, 2019.

Other airlines, including Norwegian Air, Aer Lingus, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are also offering special “rescue” fares to help WOW Air ticket holders. Check with the airline to see what they can do for you.

Even the Megabus company is doing its part to help.

Are you holding tickets for a WOW Air flight? Let us know how your rebooking plans work out.

Report card for airlines

LAX Flight Path Museum airplane models

This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released air carrier data for calendar year 2018.

The report inludes stats on everything from arrival rates and incident involving the death of animals carried on airplanes to bumping rates and, for the first time, the number of wheelchairs or scooters that were checked and mishandled by airlines.

The full report can be found here, but here are some highlights.

Hawaiian Airlines had the best arrival rates in 2018 – 87.8 percent – followed by Delta Air Lines (83.2 percent) and Alaska Airlines (82.7 percent).

The worst arrival rates for 2018?

Frontier Airlines (69.4 percent), JetBlue (71 percent) and Allegiant Airlines (76.9 percent).

Overall, during 2018 reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.4 percent, down from 80.2 percent in 2017. 

Tarmac Delays

In 2018, airlines reported 202 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, an increase from the 193 such tarmac delays reported in 2017. 

In 2018, airlines reported 61 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 51 such tarmac delays reported in 2017.

Incidents Involving Animals

In 2018, carriers reported 10 animal deaths, injuries to seven other animals and zero lost animals, for a total of 17 incidents, down from the 40 total incident reports filed for calendar year 2017. 

Complaints About Airline Service

Overall, travelers filed fewer complaints about airlines with the DOT in 2018 than they did in 2017.

In 2018, the DOT received 15,541 complaints, down 14.4 percent from the total of 18,156 received in 2017.  

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers and Discrimination  

In 2018, the DOT received 828 disability complaints, down 2.6 percent from the total of 850 received in 2017. 

There were 96 complaints about discrimination, a decrease of 2.0 percent from the total of 98 filed in 2017.

Bumping

After a series of sensational incidents in past years, in 2018 the number of bumped passengers hit a historical low.

In 2018, reporting carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.14 per 10,000 passengers, the previous low was 0.40 in 2017.

Wheelchairs and scooters

For the first time, the DOT’s report includes the number of wheelchairs and scooters checked and mishandled by the 12 reporting airlines.  

From Dec. 4 through Dec. 31, airlines reported checking 32,229 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 701, a rate of 2.18 percent mishandled.