KLM’s Fleet Plans: What Does The Future Hold?

With KLM slowly ramping up its schedule, it’s not just a well-balanced network that the Dutch airline is thinking about. KLM’s fleet is the focus of its development plans. That’s where it sees its ability to grow in the future. It makes sense; the right aircraft will allow it to fly to the most lucrative destinations in a cost effective. So, what does the future hold for KLM’s fleet? We take a look.

KLM being towed
How will KLM’s fleet evolve over the next few years? Photo: Getty Images

KLM’s fleet coming out of storage

Despite losing 95% of its passenger traffic in the second quarter of 2020, KLM is getting itself back on its feet. It has recently announced route network updates with service resumptions, including one to Hangzhou and new routes, including one in Poland. After all that’s been going on over the past few months, it’s good news to see KLM back up in the air.

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Many of the aircraft that had previously been parked during the height of the pandemic have now been brought back into operation. This is vital for KLM’s future. It says that having a well-streamlined fleet will allow it the versatility it needs to weather the next few years.

With this flexibility, KLM will be able to develop its route network as it sees fit to remain profitable once the current crisis is over.

KLM in air grey day
KLM is back in the air again. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Taking on the Boeing 787

In order to achieve that ideal, KLM needs a solid strategy for its fleet. It already has a reliable fleet of aircraft that will only be strengthened in the years to come.

At the tail end of last year, Air France-KLM ordered an additional 10 Airbus A350, which brought its total order up to 38 new models of the aircraft. However, none of those planes are destined for KLM. Instead, they will be heading to Air France, and in exchange, KLM will likely be receiving the remainder of Air France’s Boeing 787-9 order. That six new Dreamliners.

These aircraft are vital for long-haul services for KLM, and they are already in use. According to Planespotters.net, KLM has 18 Boeing 787 aircraft in its fleet in two variants: the 787-9 and 787-10. At the moment, it relies more heavily on the 787-9 with 13 airplanes and just five 787-10.

787-10 DL arrival
A 787-10 was delivered to the airline in February this year. Photo: KLM

However, that does not necessarily indicate KLM’s preference. Earlier this year, KLM took on another 787-10. It was delivered by Boeing in February and is registered as PH-BKG.

More deliveries ahead

The arrival of PH-BKG is only the first in a string of deliveries that will be coming to the airline over the next few years. Four Boeing 787 will be delivered in total this year to the Air France-KLM group. A further two will be delivered in 2024 on a delayed schedule. These two aircraft were meant to be delivered between 2021 and 2022.

In addition, KLM will receive a Boeing 777 in 2021.

KLM 777 arrival
A 777 will arrive next year alongside other scheduled deliveries. Photo: KLM

Though there have been postponed deliveries, it is KLM’s decision to keep delays to a minimum. It says that the decisions it makes now about its fleet will be vital to ensure its success in the future. While new aircraft may incur costs, it is preferable for the airline to have the latest aircraft with better efficiency to cut costs in the long run.

With this strategy, KLM believes that its fleet will be the driving force to keep it profitable after the pandemic.

Other aircraft will leave the fleet

Fast forward a few years, and the KLM fleet will look slightly different. The pandemic has already caused the acceleration of some aircraft’s retirement. However, more are expected over the coming years.

Though the Boeing 747 had been pulled out of early retirement to carry out deliveries of medical supplies, it will officially end its time in the KLM fleet within the next two months. The final KLM 747 passenger flight was in March this year. However, by October, the aircraft will officially leave.

KLM 747 flies over beach
The 747 will retire from KLM’s fleet in October to modernize the fleet. Photo: Getty Images

That’s not the only aircraft either. The Airbus A330 is also on its way out. Currently, KLM has 13 A330 in its fleet in two variants; A330-200 and A330-300. However, relying so heavily on the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 means KLM will no longer need the A330.

Working towards a more streamlined fleet will help it to maximize profit as well as keep its fleet updated. It is thought that by 2025, the A330 in any form will no longer be part of the KLM fleet.

Could KLM order even more aircraft?

With these changes and the disappearance of 20 aircraft, KLM will be a smaller airline for sure. However, if it is to remain flexible and versatile, it may need to update its fleet even further.

KLM 777
Could KLM order any 777X to update its older 777s? Photo: Getty Images

KLM’s 777 fleet is still relatively young, but it might eventually look for an upgrade. The average age of KLM’s entire fleet is currently 11.5 years, and the current 777 fleet is 11.8 years on average.

There is still life in the aircraft yet, but as it is able, perhaps KLM will invest in the 777X. When KLM ordered two 777s in September last year, the 777X may not have been an option. That may have been the reason why it went with the 777-300ER instead.

If so, then the 777X could be a replacement for outdated aircraft further down the line. It boasts more passenger seats, a much-improved range, and additional technology that contributes to cost savings.

That said, an investment of this scale will likely take some time. As KLM weaves its way out of dwindling passenger demand, it will be best to see how things pan out in the coming years before diving into purchasing new aircraft.

What do you think the future of KLM’s fleet will be? Let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments.