Air Transport World

The new wave-Dutch style. (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, cargo, passenger combination; includes related article on cargo operations)

KLM combines cargo and passengers on high-utilization combi aircraft to expand its international 'niches'

AMSTERDAM--Within two years and coincient with the delivery of new aircraft, KLM expects to begin doubling its hubbing operations into Amsterdam Schiphol airport, significantly increasing its worldwide operations and further strengthening its historic emphasis on beyond gateway traffic.

In his June 4 report to stockholders, President Pieter Bouw stated that a projected growth in the KLM fleet, together with a new contract with the pilots, will allow the airline to expand the current 3-wave system at Schiphol to a 6-wave system--resulting "in more and better connections for our customers."

With roughly 75% of its traffic being transient through its Schiphol hub as Sixth Freedom, connection frequency is the major key to KLM's success.

"Traditionally, KLM has been too big for its market in Holland," explained Senior VP-Marketing Frank H. Rovekamp. "Our market is as a transfer carrier. For us to grow faster than the growth of just this market, we had to go out and find niches around the world, small niches that we could market without being too strong an opponent or causing a war with that country or in the hub we were looking at," he said. To develop its positions within these niches, KLM combines passengers and cargo to build frequency, a strategy made possible most often through extensive use of combi aircraft. Of KLM's fleet of 29 Boeing 747s, 23 are combis, said Michael Wisbrun, VP-business systems.

"KLM ... can increase frequencies to many destinations in the worm where--if we only flew passengers--we could fly only 3-4 times a week. But with the combination of passengers and cargo, we can fly seven times a week. The combi is a vehicle for us to combine cargo and passengers into a network where geographical spread is one of the cornerstones," Wisbrun said. The passenger/cargo ratio for the airline ranges between 60/40 and 70/30, he said.

The new 6-wave system is expected to be completed within four years. When the 3-wave system was introduced at Schiphol in 1992, it allowed the airline to expand both capacity and market share without adding employees and aircraft significantly. KLM was able to increase utilization of its fleet from 7 hr. to 9 1/2 hr. on the European routes and from 11 to around 13 1/2 hr. on the long-range 747 and McDonnell Douglas MD-11 routes.

For its proposed 6-wave system, however, KLM will initiate a major acquisition plan, with the greatest expansion for the European fleet. …

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