Your partner in British Dutch Business

Interview with Mr Pieter Elbers, CEO KLM

Please explain why the British market is relevant for KLM both historically and at present. 

Almost 100 years ago, the first historical flight of KLM was between London and Amsterdam. Today, the UK remains a very important market, 18% of all KLM flights, with daily 69 flights to the UK 16 destinations in UK

What distinguishes KLM from its competitors today?

The bottom line of the history of KLM is entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and being the pioneer at the right moment and occasion. An airline company can book success due to two factors: excellent personnel and loyal customers. What is unique in our case is the authentic way that we align these two aspects. On 7 October 2019 we will celebrate a special day in Dutch aviation: KLM will be 100 years old! KLM is the first airline in the world that still operates under its own name. As the first CEO of KLM, pioneer Albert Plesman had a dream: "the ocean of the air unites all people", a network that connects people literally and figuratively. His vision of the future and decisiveness made dreams a reality. 

Since then, KLM stands for entrepreneurship and connection. Traditional Dutch trade and hospitality have been traveling the world for a hundred years. KLM is truly Dutch Heritage. KLM now connects the Netherlands with the world and the world with the Netherlands. With KLM, travelers and companies have discovered other cultures and made their world so much bigger. By building and expanding our global network, we connect the world, directly from our home base in Amsterdam, to more than 160 destinations. 

From our beginnings, we connect with our customers by focusing on them. We do this with all enthusiastic KLM people on the ground and in the air, visible or behind the scenes, anchored in our DNA with openness and hospitality. It has brought us to where we are today; a strong brand and also an airline that always knows how to touch the hearts of its customers.

To what extent does KLM incorporate the SDGs? 

It is my ambition to ensure that KLM takes its responsibility when it comes to maintaining a liveable planet for future generations and therefore sustainable development of the airline industry. As an airline that has existed for 100 years and has been at the top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the past 14 years, sustainability has always been part of our DNA. In 2018, we made record investments in more fuel efficient and quieter aircraft, formulated a new sustainability strategy, and launched an ambitious plan with more than 20 aviation partners for smart and sustainable growth of aviation in the Netherlands. 

Another one is our Fly Responsibly program. Fly Responsibly is KLM’s commitment to take responsibility for its own role in creating a more sustainable future for aviation. It includes all of the work we already do and will do in the future, to improve the sustainability of our operations. But it also includes sharing what we do well with others, while learning from what they do well. Only when we work together across the entire industry can we make real progress. So, with Fly Responsibly, we invite consumers to carefully consider their options before booking a flight. And when they fly compensate for their flight’s CO2 emissions through our CO2ZERO programme. We invite companies to offset corporate travel through our corporate biofuel programme. And we open source our best practices for other airlines to use.

Why did you become a Gold Member of the NBCC and how does it meet your expectations?

I am very happy with our membership of the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). It allows us to access highly valuable sector and political insights on sustainability for our UK market through a variety of events with distinguished experts and key public policymakers. The NBCC attracts high-calibre companies and individuals with a networking opportunity we certainly don’t want to miss! For instance the NBCC North Sea Neighbours Dinner 2019 provided a great opportunity for me to learn the latest of the two Ministers on the Brexit State of Play and to engage with relevant stakeholders on important themes such as sustainability. We are a proud partner of the KLM Golf Tournament at Moor Park Rickmansworth.

Is there anything special you would like to share with us?

Our motto for the coming years is: “100 and beyond”: a fit and healthy future. I have great respect for all my colleagues who have contributed to making KLM fit again. We live at present, learn from the past and anticipate the future. If winds change course, we have to adjust accordingly. 

At KLM we want to set the standard for tomorrow's aviation in the coming century. That is why we celebrate much more than our 100th birthday. We look back with pride and, above all, with confidence ahead. KLM is fit, healthy and ready for the next hundred years; connected with the world, with attention to our environment.

The celebration of our 100th anniversary is therefore the bridge between our beautiful past and a promising future. Looking to that future, we think it is important that we take our responsibility to make KLM cleaner, quieter and more sustainable.

The challenges of today and tomorrow are as great as ever. Care for our environment - nature, environment and climate - is more than ever a reality. We only have one planet and when it comes to the future of sustainable aviation, expectations are sky high. We owe it to the next generations to find solutions for the next hundred years with our partners. Nobody wins in a world that loses.