For 98 years, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been a pioneer in the airline industry and is the oldest airline to still be operating under its original name. KLM aims to be the most customer-focused, innovative and efficient in Europe, offering reliable service and top-quality products.
KLM began putting Manila on their aviation route map when KLM launched its first scheduled link connecting Amsterdam and Tokyo with a stop in Manila on 5 December, 1951, thus KLM became the first Western airline to serve Manila.
In 2017 the Air France –KLM group carried 98.7 million passengers.
Bas Hogendorf, the new Country Manager for Air France-KLM in the Philippines provided an insightful interview detailing the current projects and work of Air France -KLM in the Nordic/Philippine market. Having worked for Air France -KLM since 2005, he presently oversees operations at the local office in Manila, contributing, implementing and executing the local Business Plan, within the framework of the Air France-KLM strategy.
- What are the key success factors of Air France-KLM in the Philippines?
For years KLM has convenient daily night flights between Manila and Amsterdam Schiphol airport via Taipei using Boeing 777 aircraft.
A key success factor for Air France KLM in the Philippines is our vast network of more than 80 strategic partners across all continents. Air France KLM is constantly enhancing its network and we are currently offering 314 destinations in 116 countries. Through our hub at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, and through Paris Charles de Gaulle our principal two European Hubs, we are the number 1 in terms of international traffic on departure from Europe, with more than 256,000 flights departures carrying on average over 270,000 passengers per day.
For travellers from the Philippines it is important to have a great customer experience but also to have access to great network of destinations to choose from, so you get to your final destination comfortably and as fast as possible.
Travel within and outside of the Philippines is currently increasing. In fact, a report presented by Visa stated that Filipinos are one of Asia’s top travellers. Travelling to Europe is also becoming more common these days, some of which even linked to cruises.
- How do you think the airline market/industry will grow in the next five years?
The Air France KLM group has been reinventing itself in the last few years and it is of great importance that we keep innovating in all areas in order to pursue growth but also satisfy our customers’ needs. We’re an industry leader and recognized for our digital innovation. For example KLM was the very first airline to have a verified WhatsApp Business account. Customers now have the option to receive their booking confirmation, boarding pass and receive any other flight information via WhatsApp.
KLM also had the largest dedicated Social media team in the world to answer questions – more than 250 employees – are available 24/7 and are able to answer questions in 10 languages. (Unfortunately not yet Tagalog but who knows!)
So coming back to your question how the airline industry will grow, travel is a common commodity now with more and more demands from travellers to offer even better services and products to make travel easy, fun and affordable.
- What developments has Air France-KLM envisaged for and in the Philippines?
Customers from the Philippines can take advantage of all the new innovative ways of travelling open to KLM customers. They can contact KLM 24/7 via a social media platform of their choice, they can order an a la carte meal from Amsterdam and use their Flying Blue Miles to upgrade.
KLM offers its new cabins from Manila with full-flat seats in World Business Class which offer supreme comfort and personal space. Economy Class on intercontinental flights are ergonomically designed seats that offer an excellent travel experience. Economy comfort, a separate zone in front of the economy class, offers seats with more legroom and recline and can be purchased upon booking or check-in. To relax and pass the time, personal screens offer more than 1000 hours of interactive entertainment.
I hope that in the near future we can explore new opportunities for our customer at the airport, for example accepting digital boarding passes, a key functionality these days.
- What is the relevance for KLM from the Nordic-Philippines perspective? What are the current trends? What are the current facts and projects?
From Manila our most popular Nordic destinations are marine destinations such as Bergen and Stavanger, but we are seeing an increase of leisure travel to Copenhagen and Billund, well-known cruise destinations.
Furthermore, we take our responsibilities to encourage sustainability very serious. We were the most sustainable airline for over 12 years. KLM is intensively involved in making flying as environmentally friendly as possible and among our various green initiatives we are investing in sustainable biojet fuel.
In May, KLM started daily flights to Vaxjo in Sweden and flies the route as sustainable as possible. This means KLM not only purchases sustainable biojet fuel for the route, it also compensates the total remaining carbon dioxide emissions of all flights through KLM’s CO2ZERO programme. This makes KLM’s Vaxjo flights the most sustainable destination in our network. Additionally in a unique partnership with Sodra, Sweden’s largest cooperative of forest owners, based in Vaxjo, they are the first non-Dutch partner in the KLM Corporate Biofuel programme. Together with Sodra and the City of Vaxjo, KLM and SkyNRG will investigate the feasibility of producing biojet fuel in the region around Vaxjo.
These are exciting initiatives that support KLM’s CSR strategy to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 (Compared to 2011) In 2017 KLM already reduced emissions by 16%.
KLM CO2ZERO programme was launched in 2008 and enables passengers to engage in CO2 neutral travel. For more information on this topic visit klmtakescare.com
- Can you describe the travel industry in the Philippines? What are the Filipinos’ travelling habits?
Given the importance of tourism in the Philippines it is encouraging to see that more and more Filipinos are travelling for leisure – and not just within Asia – but also to Europe
At the moment most KLM customers travelling from Manila travel for business, marine and other business travel related but our focus is increasingly on the leisure market. We are seeing a strong desire from Filipino’s to enrich their lives through travel. We also notice that those travellers expect a high level of personalisation from us and we are facilitating this through all of our innovative digital tools.
- How is KLM utilising social media to build their brand community and interact with their customers?
It is KLM’s ambition to offer passengers memorable experiences when travelling and in today’s digital age interaction by brands needs to become even more human and personal in the digital space. That is what today’s global traveller expects. They want an authentic travel experience but they also want to be surprised and delighted.
KLM has been a frontrunner on social media and from the start of measuring social media volume, from March 2011 to March 2017 we have experienced year over year double-digit growth.
KLM believes that now – today – one on one personal digital interaction via the ‘social platform of the customer choice’ is the way to engage in a meaningful, intimate, human warm, and personal conversation. So ask KLM a question or just chat with us and we will do our best to give you the best possible customer experience.
- What have been the professional and personal challenges of moving and working in the Philippines?
Moving to the Philippines was and is a very significant event in my personal and business life.
I immediately felt very welcome. The people are friendly, optimistic and love to celebrate life and this has made it easy to quickly settle.
There are also wonderful islands and beautiful beaches to visit. Also there are some great weekend getaways. So far I have only been to Palawan so many more places to explore.
Of course Manilla also has its challenges. The traffic for example is something I will never get used to!