Innovative airlines 2011: #7 KLM

In 7th place is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Part of Air France since 2004, the Dutch airline is the eight largest airline in the world by international kilometers flown, transferring the majority of its passengers through its Amsterdam Schiphol hub, which is regarded as one of the best airports in the world. We have featured KLM several times on because of its innovative way of harnessing its Dutch origins, its focus on sustainability and several interesting social media campaigns. 

Dutch Design
For nearly 60 years, KLM has handed out small ceramic replicas of historical Dutch houses filled with Dutch ‘genever’ to passengers in Business Class. As KLM has produced almost a hundred different models since 1952, but carries only about 30 of the popular ‘status’ souvenirs on each flight, the airline recently launched an iPhone/Android app that lists all KLM houses, so passengers no longer have to bring crumpled notes with them in order to pick their favourite house. 

KLM is further emphasizing its Dutch origins by teaming up with Dutch designers such as Marcel Wanders (of Droog Design fame), who just created the airline’s Business Class tableware in his signature style (to be introduced in March 2011). KLM will also introduce an amenity kit designed by a well-known Dutch designer in Business Class in March 2011, while the airline’s crew in early 2010 changed into new uniforms designed by Dutch couturier Mart Visser

Sustainable catering
KLM is undertaking serious efforts to make its inflight catering more sustainable, opting for eco-friendly alternatives wherever possible. KLM is one of the few airlines that serve Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee on board as well as tea cultivated in a sustainable way. Other foodstuffs include organic eggs, bread, butter and wine, as well as meat sourced from farms that take the well-being of animals into account. KLM is also the only airline that regularly serves fish that has been caught in a sustainable manner, as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Catering to the ‘locavore’ trend, KLM in the last two months of 2010 served Business Class passengers on long-haul flights out of Amsterdam meals based on seasonal Dutch home-grown ingredients.

Sustainable operations
In November 2009, KLM became the first airline to carry out a biofuel test flight in which passengers were onboard – including KLM CEO Peter Hartman – flying a B747-400 with one engine powered by a 50:50 mix of a camelina-based biofuel and traditional kerosene. To reduce CO2 emissions for ground operations KLM has also been testing the ‘AirPod,’ a zero-emission vehicle that runs on compressed air to transport people and light cargo at Schiphol Airport. 

In 2010, KLM launched an ‘upcycling’ initiative in which it discarded old uniforms from 11,000 airline staff  in a sustainable way. 90,000 kilo of fabric will be cutted into basic material which in turn will be re-used to create new products. To stimulate the use of bicycles by employees for commuting, KLM in 2008 asked design agency Johnny Loco to create a hip ‘KLM cruiser bike’ which could be purchased at a reduced price. 

KLM has been one of the first airlines to let passenger self-label and check-in their baggage. Passengers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol can place their luggage into a large, white pod-shaped machine, scan their boarding pass and answer the usual security questions via a touch-screen. The machine then weighs the luggage and prints out a label that passengers attach to their suitcase.

In a separate initiative, KLM passengers in various campaigns around the world could personalize their luggage tags by uploading a personal picture or design. The personalized tags are a smart branding tool since passengers flying with other airlines often still keep the KLM-branded tag attached to their luggage. 

Social media: KLM Surprise, Fly2Miami, co-creation
In one of the most innovative social media campaigns of 2010, KLM combined social media with real-world interactions. A ‘KLM Surprise Team’ at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport randomly surprised passengers that checked-in virtually at KLM venues on Foursquare. The team used information found on the passenger’s social network profile or in recent tweets to come up with a personal gift (this video gives a nice overview of the campaign).

A new twist on crowd-buying is Fly2Miami. The initiators of Fly2Miami made a bet with KLM on Twitter to organize a non-stop flight from Amsterdam to Miami specifically for people attending the Ultra Music Festival, if Fly2Miami could get 351 seats reserved before a certain date. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, the flight was fully booked within five hours, and in March 2011, KLM will carry out the flight (video about the campaign here). 

KLM has also been actively asking consumers for their ideas in a number of campaigns, such as ‘Battle of Concepts,’ ‘Creative Challenge,’ and ‘Young Designers Competition,’ in which it asked students to come up with creative ideas to respectively enhance the gate experience at Schiphol, a vision for the future of the airline industry, and a new concept for a meal tray and associated tableware.


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