Date: 5 June 2022
Dear KLM Colleagues, Yesterday, Saturday, 4 June, was a difficult day for our operations. Unfortunately, given recent developments, this was no exception. This presents an extremely difficult situation for everyone and it’s clear to see what impact this has on our customers, colleagues and KLM as a whole. We’re doing everything in our power to find solutions where possible and are in intensive consultation with Amsterdam Airport Schiphol regarding the current shortcomings. This extra column today is addressed to all our colleagues who have worked tirelessly on this difficult day – and indeed throughout this difficult period – to say THANK YOU and express our great appreciation. What’s more, I’d like to provide you with an update about the current situation and what we’re doing about it. Luckily, our loyal customers have been coming back to us since March 2022 after two difficult years in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. KLM flights are more fully booked and demand is picking up strongly. This means increasing revenues, which have already enabled KLM to redeem more than two thirds (€665 million) of the government loan package of €942 million, split over two payments. Not only has the explosive uptick in demand manifested in higher load factors and a greater number of flights for KLM, but also for other airlines in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The measures adopted at airports during the Covid-19 years, combined with extreme scarcity in today’s labour market, have resulted in long queues at different airports. KLM’s operations have been under pressure since the end of April. Great pressure, would perhaps be a better description. The increasing number of flights, rapidly rising load factors and labour market scarcity mean that KLM’s schedule has little room for flexibility. Although developments are unfolding at great tempo, we have managed to take some preparatory measures. Take the measures adopted in recent weeks, including initiatives to reduce work pressure and preventative flight cancellations. We’ve all been hard at work trying to maintain workable operations each day – for our customers and for one another.
Schiphol is also facing scarcity in terms of staffing – especially security services – presenting enormous challenges for KLM and other airlines in recent weeks. The long queues at the security check points for passengers and carry-on baggage at Schiphol have led to a snowball effect hugely impacting KLM’s finely tuned operational schedule. Regrettably, we have therefore not been able to honour our agreements with customers and this does not live up to the standards of the product we stand for as KLM. Intensive consultations are under way with Schiphol in the hope of finding a way to resolve the situation at security, in the immediate future and in the long term. Runway maintenance is another topic of discussion. Schiphol is not delivering at the requisite level, hugely impacting our operations and thus letting KLM down and our customers.
Yesterday, 4 June, was a very bad day! Unfavourable weather conditions and runway maintenance being carried out at Schiphol led air traffic control to reduce capacity by more than half. Many aircraft were consequently unable to land in or depart from Amsterdam. A large number of KLM flights on Saturday were therefore delayed and/or cancelled. The number of passengers unable to fly out of Amsterdam as result of these external factors grew throughout the day. To ensure that the situation at Schiphol remained safe and workable for passengers and crew, on Saturday afternoon, KLM regrettably had to take the decision not to fly any more passengers to Amsterdam from European stations. This decision was taken to ensure that as many stranded passengers as possible would be able to depart from Schiphol, thereby allowing KLM to operate flights as much as possible according to schedule on Sunday. This drastic intervention yesterday was highly regrettable, for our passengers and, not least, for our crew at the outstations. This decision, however, enabled us to maintain a safe situation at Schiphol yesterday. Today, Sunday, we have luckily been able to operate on schedule. Today has been busy, but manageable. A number of these causes, beyond KLM’s immediate control, have an enormous impact on our operations and therefore on our customers and colleagues. The snowball effect described above meant that we were unable to provide the service recovery our customers should be able to expect from us and for which we stand as KLM, regardless of the immense efforts of our colleagues. We have apologised to our customers for this.
To all our colleagues who worked so incredibly hard throughout this difficult day, I would once more like to express my deep gratitude and appreciation. Everywhere – on the ground, in the air and at the outstations – KLM employees worked tirelessly under difficult circumstances to help understandably angry and disappointed customers. However, it is not just yesterday or this weekend that has been difficult; we have been dealing with difficult situations and operational disruptions for weeks now. Such disruptions to our operations are not uncommon and we are usually able to take them in our stride. But the accumulation of factors at Schiphol means that these disruptions now have a far greater impact. This makes working in the frontline of our operations – both in the air and on the ground – tough and certainly not always pleasant. We fully understand this and are doing all we can to take measures that will make this work more tolerable, reduce pressure and, of course, get our passengers to their destinations. We have recently been working on new measures along three lines: 1. Measures at Schiphol We have been holding intensive talks with Schiphol since the beginning of the year on the subject of security capacity, but also, for example, about carrying out scheduled runway maintenance at this busy time of year. A number of recent measures and actions taken by Schiphol seem to have helped somewhat in preventing the worst excesses in disruptions to security processes. This meant, for example, that operations on a busy Friday, 3 June, remained controlled. But a lot more still needs to be done. 2. Adjusting our own KLM schedules by reducing flight capacity In advance of busy days in recent months, a number of flights have been proactively cancelled as the need arose – either at the request of Schiphol or at KLM’s own initiative – to create operational leeway. We also started doing this further in advance to avoid the need for last-minute re-bookings. 3. Other supplementary ad-hoc measures a. Temporary suspension of new bookings on peak days b. Implementing different loading procedures c. Workload measures and additional staffing d. Flattening the peaks
As the summer holiday season approaches, it’s clear there is a lot more that needs to be done. We will be working hard in the weeks ahead to pre-empt developments. The period ahead will continue to be challenging. But rest assured that KLM wants to take any steps necessary to ensure smooth operations. We are holding intensive discussions with Schiphol to resolve the issues there. Our aim is to ensure that work is manageable and safe for all our staff and to offer our customers the service they are accustomed to receiving from us. Together we have survived many major operational disruptions over the last few years, and we will do so again! I understand that huge demands are being placed on everyone at the moment and would, therefore, once again like to express my sincere appreciation.