Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. more commonly known as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. 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 and in 2014 it celebrated its 95th Birthday.
Here we take a look at the long and colourful history of one of the worlds most iconic airlines.
Simply click on one of the pictures below to enter the gallery….
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.
#BringingBackTheGlamour. 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.
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.
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.
KLM also has 7 Airbus A350-900’s on order. Deliveries of the state-of-the-art jets begin in 2020.
See also KLM’s entry in our ‘Style in the Aisles’ Top Ten Cabin Crew Uniforms of 2016.
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