Shutterstock 407558110reduced

KLM: History, fun facts and curious stories

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hello! And welcome to this quick comprehensive post about KLM’s history and fun facts. The Dutch company is Europe's 4th largest airline, since merging with Air France at least, and Schiphol Airport, one of the nicest airports in the world, is its main hub. However, KLM still possesses one of the most impressive titles in the aviation industry: the world’s oldest commercial airline.

Because KLM is celebrating its 100th Birthday this year, we thought we would give you all the insights into KLM and what makes the Dutch airline so successful. Hopefully, we will be able to give you details that will help you to select KLM in the future, if you wish to do so.


The history of KLM

The Dutch flag carrier was founded in 1919. This year in October, it will be celebrating its 100th birthday, having operated through a world war as well as grown with the evolution of commercial aviation.

1920: First flight from Amsterdam to London, still operated to this day.

1924: First flight to Indonesia. The plane landed in Batavia (now Jakarta) more than a week after leaving Amsterdam. As stated by the airline, a flight that took almost two weeks to complete (stopovers included) now takes only 15 hours. What a difference 100 years make!

1934: Crossed the Atlantic for the first time. Landing in Curacao just in time to enjoy some sunshine.

1946: First European Airline to commercially connect the European continent with the United States of America (New York) after the Second World War.

1960: Made the switch to jet engines. Leaving the propellers behind meant shorter flights, time-wise.

1961: Helped with introducing the Boeing 747, “Queen of the Skies”, to the world. Probably the most iconic commercial jet to ever fly.

1991: KLM purchased an 80% stake in Transavia, a brand that would later become KLM’s low-cost subsidiary.

2004: KLM merges with France, becoming one of Europe’s biggest airlines.

2008: Largest airline in the world in terms of total operating revenue and international passengers by kilometre flown.

2011: KLM is categorised as one of the top 10 world’s safest airlines and initiates the first bio-fuel flight to Paris.

2013: The Dutch airline performs its first flight with Wi-Fi on board.

2014-2017: The airline says goodbye to older aircraft, the Fokker 7 and the iconic MD 11 models to be precise. However, it also welcomes the new aircraft models: Embraer 190 and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The process of replacing its medium-haul fleet aims to increase fuel efficiency, reduce aircraft noise and increase biofuel usage.

Facts and figures on KLM, the Royal Dutch airline

The consortium Air France-KLM has been one of the big players when it comes to flying in Europe. The International Airline Group, Lufthansa and Ryanair are still the biggest airlines, but the Franco-Dutch combination still dominates several international routes. We have collected information about KLM's operations and some fun facts that we hope you'll find interesting.

Size of its fleet: 574 aircraft.

Total Passengers flown in a year: 101.4 million passengers in 2018 (record breaking traffic for Air France-KLM group).

On-Time Performance: From January to March (2018) 79.09% of Air France-KLM’s flights left within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure (This is considered to be on-time)

Number of Delays: From January to March (2018) 37,655 Air France-KLM flights were delayed!

Troubles in Argentina: In 2017, members of an Air France-KLM flight were detained in Buenos Aires for 6 hours after the daughter of the former deputy minister of Justice was unhappy that she did not receive an upgrade!

Aircraft names: KLM assigns names to its aircraft according to a couple of principles. Some of them are named after famous squares (i.e. Museumplein, Leidseplein, De Dam, etc.) in The Netherlands. Other categories include flowers, famous cities and UNESCO heritage sites.

KLM’s shortest and longest flights

The shortest flight operated by the blue-coloured airline is the route Amsterdam-Brussels. Opposite, you’ll find the route from Amsterdam to Denpasar. This one needs a short break in Singapore in order to be completed. The latter covers the distance of 12,000 kilometres while the former barely flies past a meagre 180.

Every KLM flights carries a ‘Letter to the President’

This unusual  habit is simpler than you think. A ‘Letter to the President’ is one in which a passenger can critiscise or compliment the airline or even a certain flight attendant. The letter is typically addressed to KLM’s President and CEO, Pieter Elbers. Often, passengers write complimentary letters specifically in regards to cabin crew who went the extra mile for a passenger’s comfort.

The Royal Dutch Airline, literally.

Willem Alexander is not only the King of the Netherlands but, as you might have heard already, he also moonlights as a KLM pilot. However, Don’t expect to hear the message “Hello, this is your captain speaking, Willem  Alexander, the King of the Netherlands, I’d like to welcome you on board and we’ll be heading to London in no-time”. When he does pilot a flight, he does in secret. He claims that passengers rarely recognise him and that flying gives him a much-needed break from the pressures of being a King.

Here are the answers to some FAQs regarding KLM and its partners.

Why did KLM and Air France merge?

Announced as a mutually agreed merger, it gave both airlines the opportunity to connect and operate from two of the busiest airports in Europe, Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. The destinations served by the new airline group rose to (in the present) 312 destinations in 112 countries. However, some experts interpret the merger as a direct move to reduce the stake that the French Government had in Air France. When it happened, back in 2004, the share of Air France owned by the French Government was reduced from 54% to 44% of the new airline group. Nowadays, it sits around the 16% mark.

When are KLM’s biggest sales/discounts?

Every year, they organise the Werelddeal Weken (world deal weeks). The dates vary year to year but you can find some great prices to destinations all around the globe. They will be celebrating their 100th birthday in 2019, so we do recommend keeping an eye open to see if they go a bit crazy come October.

How much compensation does KLM pay for a flight delay or cancellation?

Great question! Regarding regulation EC 261/2004, coincidentally approved on the same year as the Air France – KLM merger, the Royal Dutch Airline has to pay the same amounts as any other company. The amounts are determined by the distance covered by your flight and shall be paid if your flight or cancellation was not caused by an extraordinary circumstance.

  • For flights covering a distance of up to 1500 km, you should receive 250 euros.
  • For flights covering between 1500 and 3000 km (and all other intra-EU flights), you should receive 400 euros.
  • For all the rest (3000+ km flights), you get 600 euros.

Here’s a handy image with the approximate amounts in GBP:

Claiming compensation from KLM, how much can I get?

Where is KLM’s hub airport?

KLM and Air France pretty much share their hubs with each other. However, KLM operates mainly from Schiphol Airport. The aerodrome is located south-west of Amsterdam, only a 15-minute train ride to the city centre if you’re ever connecting over there and have some time to spare, and west of Amstelveen, where the airline has its headquarters. Schiphol is the 3rd biggest airport in Europe in terms of market share. Only behind Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle. More than 70 million passengers used the airport’s services in 2018. One more fun fact: it is the oldest international airport in the world that still stands on the same site where the first aircraft landed. That happened back in 2916.

What does KLM stand for?

It stands for Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij. A trio of unpronounceable words if you don’t speak Dutch that translates literally to Royal Aviation Company.

With permission granted by the Royal family, it began flying domestically in 1919. They got busy quickly and in 1920 started providing the service Amsterdam-London; the oldest commercial route in the world, still operated to this day. Next year, the route will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Do not panic! They are not operating it with the same aircraft and crew. It’s worth mentioning that, as KLM’s safety record shows, all personnel that have ever worked for the carrier have done so impeccably.

How many people dos Air France – KLM employ?

The consortium employs around 85 thousand people. They have two main headquarters. One located in Tremblay-en-France, in Paris (no surprise there right!) and the other one in Amstelveen, the Netherlands.

To which airline alliance does KLM belong?

The airline is part of the SkyTeam alliance. Some other members are Delta Airlines, Air France, Air Europa, Alitalia and Korean Air. Through this alliance, KLM is able to sell you tickets to more than one thousand destinations around the world. When all the airlines are combined, they operate more than 17 thousand daily flights!

Which airlines are subsidiaries of KLM?

The list of airlines who are owned by Air France – KLM is:

  • KLM
  • KLM Cargo
  • KLM Cityhopper
  • KLM Asia
  • Air France
  • Air France Cargo
  • Transavia
  • Transavia France
  • HOP!
  • Joon
  • Martinair

Do I have the right to claim compensation if my KLM flight has beed delayed or cancelled?

According to Regulation EC 261/2004, your rights are protected in the event of any flight disruptions. This also includes schedule changes and if you have been denied boarding to overbooking. However, there are certain conditions that need to be met for you to be able to claim compensation.

Claiming compensation for a delayed or cancelled KLM flight

We hope you enjoyed finding out more about KLM! Despite this airline’s efficiency and professional experience, many passengers who fly with this airline are still delayed (recall that over 35 thousand flights were delayed between January and March of last year).

At we specialise in claiming the compensation that delayed passengers are entitled to. This can be as much as 600 euros per passenger! If you have been delayed in the last 6 years, you can use our free flight checker to see if you are entitled to claim compensation. We also work on a no-win-no-fee basis. That means that you only pay our 25% win-fee if we successfully claim your compensation. Best of all, our win-fee covers all possible costs associated with claiming your compensation. Even if we have to go to court for it. Check to see if you’re entitled and exercise your rights as a passenger.

Check my flight

Don't want to miss out on any new blog entries? like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Trustpilot-Reviews of