KLM Will Celebrate Its Centenary Next Month

October 7th will see KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrate its 100th birthday. The company was founded on that date in 1919. Seven months later, on May 17th 1920, the carrier – already known as KLM – took off on an inaugural flight between Amsterdam and London.

KLM jet on taxiway
KLM celebrates its centenary on October 7th this year. Photo: KLM

The oldest airline still using its original company moniker, KLM flew a DH-16 across the North Sea. Landing at Croydon airport were two journalists and a stack of newspapers. For the remainder of the year, according to IT News Africa, KLM flew 345 passengers and delivered 25 tonnes of cargo.

Today KLM operates scheduled passenger and cargo services to 145 destinations. According to the company’s own figures, in 2018 KLM Group possessed a fleet of 214 aircraft. It employed 33,000 people and generated revenue in excess of 10 billion euro.

Writes IT News Africa, the airline’s boss Pieter Elbers said of the upcoming centenary, “Over the past 100 years, KLM has earned a superb reputation in international air transport.

We have always embodied the typical Dutch pioneering and enterprising spirit, which remains an integral part of our brand. I look back on the past 100 years with pride, but also look forward with confidence to the challenges we face on the road ahead.”

We have contacted KLM for further comment but have so far received no reply.

A brief history

With the success of the short hop guaranteed, KLM joined a raft of other airlines dipping their toes into uncharted heights.

Historic KLM prop plane
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines hit the ground running. Photo: KLM

The company flew its first international flight in October of 1924. KLM’s Fokker F.VII passaged from Holland to Indonesia. The primary reason for its flying the route was to make the Dutch colonies more accessible.

Two years later, KLM was operating flights between Amsterdam and various cities. Rotterdam, Brussels, Paris and London were on the company’s early flight schedule. In 1938 the ambitious carrier spied South Africa as its next destination. The flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg took three days to complete.

After the Second World War, KLM began to rebuild its network. In 1946 it launched an inaugural transatlantic flight between Amsterdam and New York. For this, it used a Douglas DC-4. The airline became the first European to fly between the continent and North America.

Fly responsibly

On June 29th KLM Royal Dutch Airlines marked the 100th day before its 100th anniversary with a special event at its Schiphol hub. At the event CEO Elbers made clear his company’s intention to embrace the issue of climate change.

KLM B787-10 promotional
KLM receives the first of a glut of B787-10s in order to meet self-imposed sustainability targets. Photo: North Charleston via Wikimedia

He unveiled a “Fly Responsibly” initiative, inviting all industry stakeholders to, “join hands in pursuit of a more sustainable future for aviation, under the banner ‘Fly Responsibly’”.

The event also saw the arrival of the airline’s first Boeing B787-10 liveried to mark the company’s centenary. Already operating 13 B787-9s, the company has since ordered the ‘10’ variant in its pursuit of, “ambitious sustainability targets”.

Writes Elbers in a company press release, “Starting today, we will offer all airlines our CO2ZERO carbon compensation programme free of charge and free of KLM branding.

And in return, we invite others to join us and share their best practices for the benefit of a more sustainable future.”