Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. more commonly known as , is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Set up in 1919, KLM today is one of the largest
airlines in the world, carrying over 25 million passengers to destinations across the globe, with a fleet of over 200 aircraft. Since 1919, KLM has continued operating under its original name, making it one of a kind in the aviation industry.
KLM carried 34.2 million passengers in 2018, up 4.5% compared to the previous year. This significant increase is attributable to both short- and medium-haul flights, which increased by 4.8%, and long-haul flights (+3.9%). Using codeshares, KLM offers over 650 destinations around the globe via the hubs of its partners. KLM is one of the 20 airlines that form airline alliance Skyteam, offering 1,074 destinations in 177 countries with a modern fleet of 150+ aircraft. The airline employs a workforce of more 32,000 people worldwide.
In addition to KLM, the KLM Group includes KLM Cityhopper, Transavia and
Martinair. The KLM network connects the Netherlands with all of the world’s key economic regions and is a powerful engine driving the Netherlands’ economy.
Here we take a look at the long and colourful history of one of the worlds most iconic airlines.
The airline was created on October 7, 1919 by Albert Plesman. It had already been awarded the “Royal” title by the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, or KLM as it is abbreviated, literally means Royal Airlines in English, hence the title KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
KLM’s first flight took place on May 17, 1920 from Croydon Airport, London to Amsterdam, Schiphol using a leased Aircraft Transport and Travel De Haviland DH-16. The aircraft was piloted by Jerry Shaw and carried two British journalists and some newspapers.
In March 1960 KLM introduced its first jet aircraft into the fleet, with the arrival of the Douglas DC-8. This began a long co-operation between the American aircraft manufacturer and the airline, which included operations with the DC-9, DC-10, and MD-11.
KLM dollies pose in front of a DC-9 in the 1960’s.
In February 1971, KLM entered the wide-body age, with the introduction of the iconic Boeing 747. They would later go on to fly the 200, 300 and 400 versions, with the latter still in operation today.
Tragedy struck the airline on March 27, 1977 when a KLM Boeing 747’s was involved in a collision with a Pan Am 747, during take-off from Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North) in the Canary Islands. Both Jumbo Jet’s had been diverted to Tenerife after a bomb had exploded at nearby Las Palmas, closing the airport. 583 people were killed in the incident, including all 283 on the KLM jet. The disaster remains the deadliest accident in aviation history.
Since the 1950’s KLM has presented all of its World Business Class passengers with a unique gift a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch house. Each miniature depicts a real Dutch house. Every year on October 7, the airline celebrate the anniversary of KLM’s founding in 1919 by presenting a new house.
In July 1989, KLM purchased a 20% stake in US carrier Northwest Airlines. This cooperation took a step further, when the airlines set up a joint venture on services between the US and Amsterdam, after the US department of Transportation granted them antitrust immunity. A number of aircraft were subsequently painted in a hybrid KLM/Northwest livery, including this McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30.
In 2004 KLM joined the SkyTeam global airline alliance. As of March 2014, SkyTeam flies to more than 1,000 destinations in 178 countries, and operates some 15,700 daily flights with a combined fleet of over 4,400 aircraft, including associate carriers.
On May 5, 2004 The Air France KLM Group was born, after the two airlines agreed to join forces seven months earlier.
November 23, 2009 KLM operated the world’s first demonstration flight with passengers on board using biofuel. On this flight, one engine ran on a mix of 50% biofuel made from camelina (huttentut). On June 29, 2011 this was followed by the first commercial flight on biokerosene from Amsterdam to Paris with 171 passengers on board. The biokerosene used on this flight was made from recycled cooking oil supplied by SkyNRG. In September a series of flights were operated on this route. With these flights KLM is demonstrating more sustainable operations really are possible.
KLM currently employees over 8,000 cabin crew and their iconic blue uniform is recognised around the world. The latest incarnation was launched in 2010 (albeit just for the ladies) and was created by Dutch designer Mart Visser, the first update in over 20 years! As the saying goes ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it’. KLMs uniform also made our 2016 Style in the Aisles Top 10 Cabin Crew uniforms.
On October 7 2014, KLM’s anniversary, Camiel Eurlings (President and CEO) unveiled the “KLM 95 Years” logo on an MD-11 aircraft. From this day on, for the duration of KLM’s anniversary, one aircraft of each type in the intercontinental fleet (Boeing 777-300/200, 747-400, 747 Combi, and Airbus 330-200/300) will display the “KLM 95 Years” logo on its fuselage.
On the morning of October 26, 2014 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines welcomed its last MD-11 passenger flight – KL672 – at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The flight, which arrived from Montreal, not only marks the end of KLM’s MD-11 operations worldwide, but also the end of a remarkable era in civil aviation. The partnership between KLM and aircraft manufacturer (McDonnell) Douglas lasted more than 80 years, which is truly unique.
KLM’s blue livery must be one of the most recognisable flying around the globe today and in 2015 the airline introduced a subtle change to its iconic colour-scheme. That gorgeous bright blue roof, the dark blue “drop nose”, the thick white letters. Hans Murris has worked on every KLM livery for the last few decades,
On November 16, 2015 KLM took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Over the coming years the B787 will play a key role in the Dutch flag carrier’s fleet renewal and expansion. “We are very proud to welcome our first B787 Dreamliner today. It symbolizes a new phase in the future of KLM,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM president and CEO.
On June 14 2016, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines introduced its unique orange-coloured Boeing 777-300. The introduction of the special aircraft was partly prompted by a social media post KLM published on King’s Day 2015. At the time, KLM’s followers were presented with a picture of an orange aircraft, along with the question: “Should we colour orange next year on King’s Day? #OrangeExperience”. 30,000 likes and 2,500 positive responses later, KLM rolls out its only orange aircraft today. KLM will deploy the orange Boeing 777 on routine flights within the network and, whenever possible, during events that offer opportunities to promote the Netherlands.
In 2016 KLM Cityhopper celebrated its 50th anniversary. The wholly-owned KLM subsidiary, which operates around 300 flights a day to 58 European destinations (mainly business centres), operated its first flight on 29 August 1966, under the name Nederlandse Luchtvaart Maatschappij (NLM; Netherlands Airline Company).
In 2015, an international panel chose KLM Cityhopper as “Regional Airline of the Year”.
In October 2017 celebrated the departure of the Fokker 70 in style, marking the end of a 97-year partnership between KLM and Fokker. The phase-out of the Fokker 70 at KLM Cityhopper rings down the curtain on an unique and remarkable era in Dutch aviation history.
In 2019 the airline celebrates it 100th anniversary and created a new ‘Fly Responsibly’ video to show the airlines commitment to sustainable aviation.
KLM’s logo through the years
KLM has had various uniform designs through the years, always in the airlines iconic blue colouring. From Amsterdam fashion house Gerzon in the 1950’s, to Nina Ricci in the 1980’s and 90’s.
Here’s to the next 100!
See also KLM’s entry in our ‘Style in the Aisles’
Top Ten Cabin Crew Uniforms of 2016.
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