Happy Birthday: KLM Turns 101 While Air France Celebrates 87

October 7th marks a significant date in the airline industry, as two of its largest carriers celebrate their birthdays. Simple Flying wishes “Gelukkige verjaardag” and “joyeux anniversaire” to KLM and Air France, who respectively turn 101 and 87 today. These are unprecedented times for such celebrations, but how did the airlines get to where they are today?

Air France KLM shares getty images
Air France and KLM share a birthday on October 7th. Photo: Getty Images

101 not out

On this day in 1919, the Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was formed. The airline is the oldest in the world still using its original name, with the acronym standing for “Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij.” In English, this translates to “Royal Aviation Company.”

The airline was founded by a consortium of Dutch businesspeople who had raised the modern-day equivalent of around $500 million. KLM’s first flight departed from London’s Croydon Airport bound for Amsterdam in May 1920.

KLM 747
KLM’s Boeing 747-operated flights to St Maarten were among the airline’s most iconic. Photo: Getty Images

Taking to Twitter to celebrate its 101st birthday, KLM reflected upon how the aviation climate has changed since its century year. October 2019 saw widespread celebrations for the airline’s 100th anniversary, such as a specially-liveried Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Seven months later, 100 years after KLM’s first flight, the airline celebrated with the visit of a 77-year-old Boeing Stearman at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

Turbulent at times

KLM looks set to survive the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, having secured the backing of the Dutch government. This is despite the fact that its November European schedule is set to be down 45% compared to last year’s figures due to reduced passenger demand.

The airline has also had to overcome difficult times earlier in its history. In March 1977, two Boeing 747 aircraft collided in foggy conditions on the runway at Tenerife North Airport, resulting in 583 fatalities. One of these belonged to KLM. The Dutch flag carrier has not been involved in a fatal accident since.

Air France turns 87

The Air France-KLM partnership saw the two European giants merge in May 2004. Funnily enough, October 7th also sees French carrier celebrate its birthday, with this year being its 87th. Formed on this day in 1933, Air France is known, among other things, for having been an operator of the supersonic airliner Concorde between 1976 and 2003.

Much like its Dutch partner, Air France has also had to overcome difficult periods, both historically and more recently. In July 2000, one of its Concorde aircraft crashed after takeoff from Paris. 113 people died in the accident, which was a factor in Air France and British Airways, who had both operated seven such aircraft, retiring Concorde three years later.

Air France operated supersonic transatlantic flights using Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde aircraft. Photo Getty Images

The present coronavirus situation has also proven challenging for Air France, forcing the airline to cut its winter schedule by around 50%. That said, there is reason to be hopeful for the French flag carrier’s future. The pandemic has seen Air France retire its Airbus A380 fleet ahead of schedule, which, in the future, should lead to a more uniform and efficient long-haul fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft.

One can share similar optimism about KLM’s future. While it was sad to see the airline retire its iconic Boeing 747 aircraft, it should lead to a similarly streamlined long-haul fleet for KLM, utilizing primarily Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. This modernization represents a promising commitment to the future of air travel on the airline’s part.

Here’s to hoping that the two airlines can overcome the difficulties of the pandemic and continue delivering what KLM’s slogan calls “journeys of inspiration” for many years (and birthdays!) to come.

What are your experiences flying with Air France and KLM? Have you ever been involved in an airline’s birthday celebrations? Let us know in the comments.