The worlds oldest airline, KLM, began operations in 1919. The airline is headquartered in the city of Amstelveen in the Netherlands. The acronym KLM represents Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, translated as Royal Aviation Company. The organization is part of Air France KLM. The airline offers commercial flights and cargo services to destinations on six continents.
KLM airline was formed shortly after an aviation exhibition took place in Amsterdam. Former Dutch Airforce officer Albert Plesman had planned and organized the event. The buildings and hangars, abandoned after the event, became the work area of Anton “Anthony” Fokker. The culmination of these events, and the predicate royal bestowed by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, led to the creation of KLM airlines on 7 October 1919. Albert Plesman served as the organization director.
The first flight of KLM occurred 17 May 1920 from London to Amsterdam using a leased DH.16 four seat biplane. The passengers for the first year of operation totaled 345. The next year the airline purchased Fokker F.II and F.III aircraft to expand flight operations. Intercontinental flight began 1 October 1924 with the Amsterdam to Batavia (present day Jakarta) trip. The trip took over 10 days to complete.
The airline added the Douglas DC-2 and DC-3 to the fleet during the 1930s. In the early 1940s, the invasion of the Netherlands during WWII suspended regular operations. Some aircraft, unable to return, were kept in the UK, South Pacific, or Australian region. KLM rebuilt at the end of the war, focusing on restoring international flight service. Aircraft from Lockheed and Convair were added in the 1940s and 1950s.
KLM struggled into the 1960s as jet aircraft were taking over the skies. The company invested in larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747-200B in 1971. The same year, the company established a new headquarter at Amstelveen. In 1983, KLM put the Airbus A310 into service.
Northwest Airlines entered into a partnership with KLM in 1993. The airlines operated flights between Europe and the US. Both airlines introduced World Business Class on international flight the next year. In 2003, KLM merged with Air France to form Air France – KLM holding company.
As a large organization in the aviation industry, KLM employs multiple efforts to support sustainability and help the environment. KLM began the KLM Corporate Biofuel Programme to reduce carbon footprint per passenger. The company is actively working on the development of biofuel and advocating its use in flights. Inflight meals feature biodegradable cups and sustainably sourced food. KLM also founded the Wings of Support charity to help children in the developing countries serviced by the airline. The worlds oldest airline is also involved in other sustainability and outreach projects. For more information on KLMs CSR, visit: https://www.klmtakescare.com/enEach month, we research the events and people that have shaped aviation. Explore aviation history HERE