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World’s oldest airline faces its biggest crisis

KLM had to restructure to continue functioning, to repay loans, and 5,000 jobs are to be sacrificed on this altar of recovery.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines cutting 5,000 jobs confirmed the world’s oldest airline is fighting for survival, amid Covid-19 devastating the global airline industry.

In its distinguished 100- year history, KLM has seen nothing like this since Queen Wilhelmina in 1919 bestowed the word “Royal” upon the world’s 18th airline.

KLM has managed to last longer than any other airline, but the past four tumultuous months has it fighting for existence.

“KLM is in the throes of a crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” the national carrier of Netherlands admitted in a statement from its headquarters in Amstelveen, an Amsterdam suburb called the “town of pilots, stewards and stewardesses”.

Flight crews reside here for proximity to Schiphol airport, but many KLM pilots and cabin crew will soon need a different address. KLM had to restructure to continue functioning, to repay loans, and 5,000 jobs are to be sacrificed on this altar of recovery.

KLM had undertaken many measures to tackle the crisis from Covid-19 circumstances, the airlines top brass said, but the road to recovery “will be long and fraught with uncertainty”. “

A great deal has already been done in recent months,” explained Pieter Elbers, KLM president-director and chief executive officer in a media statement. “Unfortunately, more measures are needed to guarantee KLM’s continued existence in the future.”

In July, KLM operated 30 per cent of its original flight capacity but revenues lagged far behind.

Air travel and global tourism are largely ghost industries at present. Civil aviation has not seen such bleak times in its 110- year history, neither did KLM since its first flight took off from London to Amsterdam 100 years ago.

On 17 May 1920, pilot Jerry Shaw flew a leased De Havilland DH-16 from London to Schiphol.

KLM’s historic flight carried two journalists, a letter from the Mayor of London to his Amsterdam counterpart and a bundle of newspapers.

A century later, a pandemic virus has grounded the airline industry. Some airlines have shut shop forever, others are fighting for survival.