Where Did KLM Fly Its MD-11 Fleet?

KLM had 10 MD-11s in all, with the first example arriving in 1993 – some 28 years ago. KLM retired the type in 2014, marking the end of all passenger MD-11 services worldwide. Looking back, KLM used the three-engine aircraft to 36 destinations between 2004 and 2014.

While the MD-11 was not a popular passenger aircraft, it was important for KLM. Photo: Maarten Visser via Wikimedia.

The end of the MD-11 in scheduled passenger service came on October 26th, 2014, when flight KL672 touched down at Amsterdam from Montreal. It was operated by PH-KCE, which ch-aviation.com indicates was delivered to KLM on November 18th, 1994, and is now scrapped at Mojave. ‘Charlie Echo had approximately 86,444 flight hours.

While the MD-11 is popular for freight, the same cannot be said for passengers, for five main reasons: performance problems, including range, despite modifications and updates; fuel inefficiency and economic problems; bad timing; the rise of better-suited aircraft; and the decline of McDonnell Douglas. As Scott Hamilton, Managing Director of Leeham Company, stated:

“The MD-11 was one of those airplanes that was classically ill-timed. It came at the end of the three- or four-engine era, just ahead of the real move to ETOPS with the 777, and it was produced by a dying company that no longer could meet promises.”

KLM was the final passenger user of the iconic MD-11. The type was retired in 2014. Photo: Getty Images.

The MD-11 was important for KLM, though

In 2014, the last year of the MD-11 for KLM, the type was used on just three routes from Amsterdam: Montreal; San Francisco; and Toronto. Between 2004 and 2014, however, some 36 destinations saw the type, examining OAG data shows. These include Kolkata, a route that KLM cut in 2004.

In this 2004-2014 period, North America had the most MD-11 seats, as shown below.

  • North America: 4.92 million two-way seats
  • Caribbean: 3.76 million
  • Africa: 2.59 million
  • South America: 2.29 million
  • Asia: 1.45 million
  • Middle East: 979,000
  • Central America: 738,000
North America was KLM’s #1 MD-11 region between 2004-2014. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia.

The year 2011 saw KLM schedule 1.92 million seats by the MD-11, which was 14% of its total widebody capacity. That year, the three-engine aircraft was the carrier’s third-most-used widebody, behind the B777-200ER and the B747-400 combi, as follows. The B787, which ultimately replaced the MD-11, didn’t arrive until November 2015.

  1. B777-200ER: 3.76 million two-way seats
  2. B747-400 combi: 2.60 million
  3. MD-11: 1.92 million
  4. A330-200: 1.81 million
  5. B747-400: 1.57 million
  6. A330-300: 1.33 million
  7. B777-300ER: 620,000
Montreal was often KLM’s leading MD-11 destination, including in 2011. Photo: Rob Schleiffert via Wikimedia.

22 destinations saw the MD-11 in 2011

The year 2011 was also one of the best for the number of destinations that saw the MD-11, with some 22 served. Montreal was the most-served, as it typically often was.

  1. Montreal: 213,000 two-way seats
  2. Panama City: 189,000
  3. Bonaire: 184,000
  4. Vancouver: 156,000
  5. Paramaribo: 153,000
  6. Tehran: 152,000
  7. Delhi: 128,000
  8. Guayaquil/Quito: 127,000
  9. Miami: 96,000
  10. San Francisco: 72,000
Some 22 destinations saw the MD-11 in 2011. A selection had stops en route, including Amsterdam-Kilimanjaro (JRO)-Dar Es Salaam (DAR)-Amsterdam. Image: GCMap.

Two stops to Quito

Most destinations were non-stop, although some, especially in the Caribbean and South America, often had one or even two stops en route. Most stopping services were triangular, saving time and money, but there was one real standout.

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This was Amsterdam to Quito, which routed via Bonaire and Guayaquil. Operating five-weekly by the M11, it left Amsterdam at 23:40 and arrived in Quito the following day at 08:10.

Did you fly the MD-11 with KLM or another carrier? If so, what were your thoughts on the aircraft? Let us know in the comments.

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