With eight Boeing 787-10 jets set to join the KLM fleet between 2019 and 2023, SkyTeam’s Dutch airline is now rethinking its separate order for seven Airbus A350s – currently planned for delivery from 2021 – which may end up being transferred to KLM’s sister airline Air France instead.
KLM is also sizing-up a broader partnership with Qantas, building on the airlines’ current codeshare agreement for travellers jetting between Australia and Amsterdam via Singapore.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, KLM CEO Pieter Elbers explains that “KLM now has so many Boeing 787s and Boeing 777s” in its fleet – plus those Boeing 787-10s on order – that there may now be no need for the A350s, which could be better-used by Air France.
“These orders were placed when Air France and KLM were already together – Air France-KLM was created back in 2004 – and these orders were placed around 2010-2011,” Elbers shares.
“It's fair to say that KLM, now having so many Boeing 787s and Boeing 777s, will look very closely at (the A350), to see if we still want to pursue with that track.”
Air France has 21 of its own Airbus A350s on order, which would nudge up to 28 with any planes inherited from KLM.
Although the two airlines retain their own brand identities following that 2004 merger into parent company Air France-KLM, both airlines have moved towards offering similar business class seating across the board when new planes join each airline’s respective fleets.
Speaking of the business class offerings of both Air France and KLM, Elbers says, “you know, once you're on a certain track, it's difficult to change it. For the Boeing 787s, the whole design, the whole layout, was done in a very similar way” between the two airlines – which also makes it easier to move aircraft around if orders change.
“If you stand inside the Boeing 787s (of Air France and KLM), they look very different: but that's mostly driven by the colours in the cabin. The seats are the same, the design is the same, and the layout is, to some extent, the same.”
KLM looks to a stronger Qantas partnership
Following the launch of a codeshare tie-up between Air France and Qantas on Singapore-Paris flights in June 2018, quickly followed by a similar codeshare deal between KLM and Qantas on the Singapore-Amsterdam route in November 2018, KLM’s CEO sees even more potential in that partnership going forward.
Speaking of that codeshare deal, “it's going actually very, very well,” Elbers shares. “The connections with Qantas over Singapore are really serving our customers.”
“I think the present cooperation could still be expanded into more codeshares, or other things. That's definitely something we will be looking at,” while stopping short of hinting a Joint Venture-type partnership.
Back in 2018, Qantas confirmed that both airlines were exploring the possibility of being able to book these codeshare flights using frequent flyer points – that is, using Qantas Points to fly KLM from Singapore to Amsterdam, and Flying Blue miles to book Qantas flights between Singapore and Australia – although any developments on this front are yet to be announced.
For now, “you know, we are not operating on the same routes, we are just handing passengers to each other. And that's a very productive way of doing that,” Elbers sums up.
Chris Chamberlin attended the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.