PAX On Location: KLM welcomes 787-10, begins 100th anniversary countdown

PAX On Location: KLM welcomes 787-10, begins 100th anniversary countdown
Pieter Elbers, president & CEO of KLM (bottom, left) at KLM's 100th anniversary countdown celebration at Schiphol.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“Our network is connecting the Netherlands to the world, and the world to the Netherlands,” said Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM.

The airline executive set the stage as more than 100 enthusiastic KLM staff, customers and journalists from around the globe gathered for a special event in Hangar 12 at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last weekend (June 29) to mark the welcoming of KLM’s first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner.  

KLM is the first European airline to operate 787-10s, and this summer, it will begin adding this type of aircraft to its fleet – eight in the coming years – giving customers more space on-board and the environment a cleaner dose of sustainable emissions.  

“In recent years, KLM has developed as a pioneer in sustainability within the airline industry,” Mr. Elbers said in a statement. “The Boeing 787-10 ties in well with KLM’s strategy and serves as an important milestones for us on the road to scaling-up sustainable aviation.”

The engines in the new 787-10s, notably, emit 31 per cent less CO2 per seat and produce 50 per cent less noise compared to the Boeing 747-400s, KLM says.

KLM welcomed its first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam last week. Photo: Paul Ridderhof

PAX was on location at Schiphol to cover the monumental event – an unveiling ceremony, so to speak – and tour the new aircraft (the only Canadian media outlet to do so).

However, there was one minor setback: the new Dreamliner never showed.

What happened?

A couple of days before the event –  and not long before PAX checked in at Toronto Pearson to fly across the Atlantic – it was revealed that the delivery of the 787-10 had been delayed, and that KLM’s new Dreamliner may, in fact, not be ready in time for Saturday’s July 30th event.

What would aviation be without a few hiccups. While our hopes of seeing KLM’s new Dreamliner were high, there was, as it turned out, no 787-10 to be seen come game day.  

“There’s always some procedures that need to be done before an aircraft can be signed off,” Mr. Elbers told reporters at the event, offering up an explanation as to what happened.  “In the last few days, it became clear that some clarification procedures [still] needed to be done.”

(The new plane, for the record, did arrive the following day on Sunday, July 31st).

The show must go on

One day late to the party. C'est la vie. But the show must go on, as they say. And that it did, with flying KLM colours and a streamer cannon to boot.

Despite an absent Dreamliner, KLM’s launch event unfolded as scheduled (and in high spirits, it should be noted) as guests mixed and mingled in KLM’s soaring hangar where two alternative planes were rolled in for the festivities – KLM’s 787-9 and 777-300.

HANGAR PARTY. Guests gather in Hangar 12 for KLM's 100th anniversary kick-off event at Schiphol Airport.“We invited other family members,” Mr. Elbers lightheartedly told attendees, who gathered, in awe, metres away from each gigantic aircraft.

The massive wingspan of the 787-9 soared over the party floor, feet above everybody’s head, providing opportunities for epic selfies and Instagram photos.

A decorated band of brass and drums marched in unison, in between the two planes, around the hangar floor. KLM Orkest, the airlines officially band, carried a tune outside of the hangar entrance. 

A marching band kicked off KLM's ceremony in Hangar 12 at Schiphol Airport.

It was an impressive display aviation lovers don’t get to see often, which dissolved any ill feelings people may have had over the 787-10’s no-show.

Above all, the reception gave KLM an opportunity to officially kick-off another exciting project in the works – the airline’s upcoming 100th anniversary, which will take place this October 7th, 2019.THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS. KLM's 100th anniversary is on October 7th, 2019.

“When you look at the history of KLM, we’ve gone through a long-time frame of innovation, entrepreneurial approach and doing new things,” Mr. Elbers said, noting that the reception was exactly 100 days before KLM’s centenary. “Today, we start counting down 100 days before our 100th birthday.”

In between speeches, which were primarily spoken in Dutch, guests were treated to presentations highlighting KLM’s sustainability plans, in addition to a fascinating throwback video showcasing moments from the airline’s illustrious history as the Netherlands’ flag carrier.

KLM's 777 joined in on the festivities last week in Hangar 12 at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

A cannon of blue streamers was activated to officially mark the beginning of the 100th year countdown, which will be the backdrop to more KLM events from now until October.

100 years of KLM

KLM’s 100th anniversary will undoubtedly mark a special day in Dutch aviation.

“The relevance of KLM and Dutch society is huge,” Mr. Elbers said.

KLM, which was founded on October 7th, 1919, is the world’s first airline that still operates under its original name, and is a gateway to the Netherlands for travellers worldwide.

THROWBACK. KLM cabin attendants gather for a group photo in 1950. Photo courtesy of KLM.

“It was a visionary at that time,” Mr. Elbers told guests, speaking on the airline’s early years.  “A vision that aviation would take to the skies and help us propel forward.”

With the heart of its operations based in Amsterdam, the KLM Group served its global network with a fleet of 209 aircraft in 2018. The company employs 33,000 people, and in 2017, it generated EUR 10 billion in revenue, the airline states. 

KLM’s 100th anniversary will mark a special day in Dutch aviation. “The relevance of KLM and Dutch society is huge,” Mr. Elbers said.

In 2004, KLM merged with Air France. Since then, it has pushed the concept of one Air France-KLM Group – two airlines and three core activities (passengers, cargo and engineering & maintenance). KLM is also a partner in the SkyTeam Alliance, which jointly serves 1,063 destinations in 173 countries.

Today, care for the environment and sustainability remain top priorities for the airline.

The Dutch carrier, for one, is taking a unique approach to sustainability by encouraging passengers to make responsible decisions when it flying.   

KLM’s new Fly Responsibility campaign, launched last month, urges travellers to think about the environmental impact of flying before committing to a journey and to consider environmentally-friendly alternatives for short-haul travel, such as taking a train or bus. 

Is the airline telling people not to fly? Not exactly.

“We are not saying don’t fly,” Mr. Elbers clarified with reporters. “We’re saying fly responsibility. Consider if flying is required. Do it, but do it in a considerable way.”

Calling sustainability an “industry challenge,” Mr. Elbers added that “the only way we can move forward on sustainability is to do it together.”

The Canadian connection

KLM’s inaugural flight between the Netherlands and Canada was 70 years ago when the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines crew boarded a Lockheed Constellation 747 to welcome passengers at Montreal’s Dorval airport on May 30th, 1949.

Since then, KLM has launched routes to Toronto (1974), Vancouver (1986), Calgary (2009) and Edmonton (2014).

The partnerships KLM has secured with local carriers is key to its global operations.

A codeshare partnership with WestJet, for example, gives Canadians access to KLM’s flights across the board.

“WestJet is a fantastic partner for us,” Mr. Elbers told PAX. “The fact that we could make places like Edmonton and Calgary connected to Amsterdam demonstrates our ability to be successful and effective in the [Canadian] market.”

KLM will continue to develop its network into Canada, said Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM.

Mr. Elbers confirmed that KLM will “continue to develop [its] network into Canada.”

This summer (until the end of October) KLM will operate 36 weekly flights from Canada to Amsterdam: Montreal (7); Toronto (11); Calgary (7); Edmonton (4); and Vancouver (7).

That schedule will change to 28 daily flights this winter: Montreal (5); Toronto (9); Calgary (7); Edmonton (3); Vancouver (4).

All aircraft are equipped with most recent version of World Business Class Seats.

Canada and the Netherlands have also launched a pilot project – called Known Traveller Digital Identity –  for paperless travel between the two countries.

Air Canada and KLM, as well as airports in Montreal, Toronto and Amsterdam are taking part in the project, which enables seamless travel using interoperable digital identities

READ MORE: Canada & Netherlands launch paperless travel pilot project

Boet Kreiken, executive vice-president of customer experience at KLM, called the project a “real breakthrough for customer experience,” adding that Canada was a natural fit to test the new technology.

“Canada is a very open and modern society,” Mr. Kreiken told PAX, describing Canadians as digitally intuitive. “The chance was there, so we said yes, let’s do it.”

About that 787-10 Dreamliner

While PAX wasn’t able to tour KLM’s new Dreamliner first-hand, we can report the 787-10 indeed completed its inaugural flight to Tanzania on July 1st, first stopping in Kilimanjaro, and then flying to Dar es Salaam on July 2nd.

The 344-seat, WiFi-enabled Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner is named ‘Oranjebloesem," which means Orange Blossom. Photo: Paul Ridderhof

The 344-seat, WiFi-enabled aircraft is named ‘Oranjebloesem’ (meaning, Orange Blossom) and bears KLM’s “100 years” livery near the nose of the plane.

Measuring at 68 metres with a wingspan of 60 metres, the aircraft features larger windows and an interior designed in partnership with Dutch designer Hella Jongerius.

The 787-10 also features KLM’s new World Business Class full flat seats, all of which have direct aisle access and weigh less, saving on fuel.

The new aircraft represents a new chapter for KLM as its centenary approaches.

“In 2014, when I started as CEO, I wanted to make sure that when we were 100, KLM would be a healthy, fit and thriving company,”  Mr. Elbers said. “If you see where we are today, we’re ordered new aircraft, we have good customer feedback, our cargo business has been restructured and [we’re] thriving.”


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