The initials stand for KoninklijkeLuchtvaartMaatschappij, aka : KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. It is the oldest airline still operating with the original name. Its headquarters are located at Amstelveen, close to the Amsterdam Airport of Schiphol. It offers cargo and passenger services to more than 90 destinations.
In 1919, the airline received the “Royal (Koninklijke) title by Queen Wilhelmina. KLM was yet to be founded, which happened later that same year. It was founded as the Dutch Royal Airline servicing the Netherlands and all its Colonies. At the end of that same year, KLM opened its first office at The Hague.
In 1920, KLM hired their first pilot, Jerry Shaw. He flew his first flight departing from London and arriving at the Amsterdam airport in a Havilland plane, model DH-16. This plane was a leased plane. That winter KLM interrupted their operations for a few months.
In 1921, after the interruption, KLM comes back and purchases his first two aircraft: Fokker F-II and F-III who are flown by the airline’s own pilots. Also that year, KLM’s first passenger office opens its doors in Amsterdam.
In 1924, KLM flies their first international route: departing from Amsterdam and arriving to Jakarta in their own Fokker F-VII airplane.
In 1929, flights became to be scheduled and regular between Batavia (Jakarta) and Amsterdam. This service was interrupted by the Second World War, and up to then, it was the longest distance flight offered in a scheduled manner.
In 1933, it was the year of historic flights and record times: just over four days to deliver a cargo of Christmas and New Year’s cards to Jakarta on their Fokker F-XVIII Pelikaan. The cargo arrived just in time.
In 1934, KLM participates in a race and (transporting cargo and several passengers) on a Douglas DC-2 Uiver aircraft and wins. The flight departed from London and arrived at Melbourne, Australia. Later, at the end of that same year, the first transatlantic route is completed in a Fokker F-XVIII aircraft, departing from Amsterdam and arriving at Curacao.
In 1945, after World War II, the airline continues its operations only with domestic routes.
In 1946, scheduled flights start between the cities of New York and Amsterdam with their Douglas DC-4 Rotterdam aircraft.
In 1958, they operated their first flight over the North Pole, opening their Tokyo to Amsterdam route with their KLM the Douglas DC-7 Caraibische Zee aircraft.
In 1960, they introduced the Douglas DC-8 to their fleet.
In 1966, Cityhopper was founded. First known as the Netherlands Airlines or NLM.
In 1967, the Schiphol Center was opened and started providing services to passengers.
In 1971, the Boeing 747-206B was added to their fleet. The airline’s headquarters opened in Amstelveen later that same year.
In 1975, KLM added the Boeing 747-306B Combi to their fleet.
In March 1988, KLM buys out the NetherLines.
In 1989, another Boeing 747-400 joined the KLM fleet. This one is the most advanced one at the time. Also that same year, the airline buys 20% of the Northwest Airlines carrier service. This was one of the first and most important steps it took in order to transform itself into an airline that serviced the whole world.
In 1991, KLM decided to merge its two smaller airlines, Cityhopper and the more recently acquired NeterLines and turned them into KLM Cityhoper. It also increased Transavia’s charters fleet a 50% and created the first frequent flyer program, destined to reward loyal passengers. They name the program the Flying Dutchman.
In 1993, the “million” year, the airline transported over 10 mil. passengers throughout the year. Also, KLM received antitrust immunity from the United States, increasing its operations with Northwest Airlines as they start operating flights between Europe and North America.
In 1994, the World Business Class service is offered.
In 1995, another Boeing, this time the 767-300ER, joined the airline’s fleet.
In 1996, KLM bought a percentage of Kenya Airways.
In the first months of 1998, the airline announced its plans to join operations with Malaysian Airlines.
In 1998, KLM received the ‘Airline of the Year Award’ and bought Dutch shares.
In 1999, the Cares program is founded to help raise funds for humanitarian causes, especially the ones helping children. KLM obtained the ISO 14001 certificate. It is the first airline to get this certification for Environmental Management.
In 2002, the airline planed to renew its fleet, replacing the airplanes with Boeings and Airbuses.
In 2003, the newly acquired Boeing 777-200R flew to Shciphol and started servicing the cities of New York, Cape Town and Nairobi.
In 2004, KLM decided to join Air France, merging both airlines.
In 2004, KLM joined SkyTeam. Several airlines were members already, among them: Aeromexico, Delta Airlines, Alitalia, Korean Air and CSA Czech Airlines.
In 2005, the new “Flying Blue” program was introduced and used by both AIR FRANCE and KLM airlines. This is the first time one same program was shared by two different airlines. The first Airbus A330 joined the airline’s fleet.
In 2006, the first kiosks were developed and used to print boarding passes. These were developed by KLM and the first in the market. They were installed at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, allowing the passengers who couldn’t print their boarding pass ahead of time, to do it upon their arrival at the airport, right before boarding the aircraft.
In 2007, the airline goes into partnership with the Fund for Nature, agreeing to reduce the toxic emissions of C02. This program is known to be the best in its class for its energy efficient proficiency.
In 2008, and after many years proposing an open skies policy, the treaty with the same name starts operating. Airlines can now fly freely between the European continent and the United States.
In 2008, antitrust immunity is given to KLM, Air France, Delta Air Lines, and Northwest Airlines by the US, which allows them to use the Open Skies program in a much better manner. KLM buys out Marinair.
In 2009, the KLM and Air France airline team buy a small percentage of Alitalia and the airline celebrates 90 years of excellent service transporting passengers and cargo.
In 2010, the Fokker 50 flew its last flight for the KLM fleet, the ladies at the airline started wearing a new uniform and there was a new tableware design by Marcel Wanders used at the Business Class.
In September 2011, KLM announced its new 200 flights using biokerosene to reduce the use of fossil fuels and developed its new “meet and seat” app for passengers flying “solo.”
In 2012, KLM announced they have agreed to share routes with Flybe departing from Southampton and arriving at Amsterdam and departing from Inverness and arriving at Amsterdam.
In 2013, KLM announced its new destinations : Fukuoka ( this is the airline’s third Japanese destination), Manston and Alesund (in Norway).
In April 2014, KLM introduced a new livery with revised titles and a swooping cheatline that wraps around the entire forward fuselage. The livery, fondly referred to as “the smiling Dolphin design”, was first introduced on an Embraer 190 aircraft when KLM Cityhopper, the largest operator of this type of aircraft in Europe, took delivery of its 28th Embraer 190.
In November 2015, KLM took delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the “Anjer” (Carnation). KLM’s Dreamliner fleet has expanded to 8 Boeing 787-9 aircraft by the end of 2016, all Dreamliners being named after flowers. The new aircraft features 30 modern full-flat seats and 16-inch screens, with the option of a dual-screen experience, in the New World Business Class, 48 seats in the Economy Comfort Zone, and 216 standard Economy seats. The seats in Economy Class feature an 11-inch touchscreen and a power socket and recline 40% more than previous models.
In May 2016, KLM inaugurated the Dreamliner’s first North American route, twice-weekly flights Amsterdam – San Francisco. Destinations served by the new Boeing 787-9 aircraft in the 2016-2017 winter also include Abu Dhabi / Muscat, Rio de Janeiro, Osaka, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Chengdu, Shanghai, Colombo, Dubai, New York, Calgary, and Kuala Lumpur.
In September 2016, under the partnership with Heineken, KLM served the world’s first in-flight draft beer aboard a flight to Curacao in the World Business Class cabin. Unfortunately, the draught trolley will be available only in World Business Class on special KLM flights.
In October 2017, after 97 years of shared Fokker and KLM history, KLM retired from operation its last Fokker aircraft operated by KLM Cityhopper.
In 2017, KLM scored record results: 32.7 million passengers to 167 destinations, including 7 new European destinations and 7 new intercontinental destinations, generating a record operating result (COI) of EUR 910 million.
In 2018, KLM improved its punctuality up to almost 85%, ranking among the top 10 airlines in the 2019 Punctuality League published by OAG, a leading global travel data provider. KLM took 2nd place in the Top 10 European airlines and jumped from the 30th to the 10th most punctual airline in the world.
In 2019, KLM will celebrate its centennial, as it was founded in October 1919. KLM, the core of the KLM Group, which also includes the wholly-owned subsidiaries KLM Cityhopper, Transavia, and Martinair, is the world’s oldest airline that still operates under its original name – Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines).
Throughout its 99-years history, KLM was involved in a series of accidents and incidents. The most notable accident involving a KLM aircraft, which led to 583 fatalities, was the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster when a KLM Boeing 747-206B attempted to take off without clearance and collided with a taxiing Pan Am Boeing 747-121. Since the Tenerife disaster, no accident involving KLM aircraft has led to fatalities, and KLM was ranked 5th place out of 60 major airlines at JACDEC Airline Safety Ranking 2015.