KLM Becomes First Airline to Hit 100 Years With Original Name

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL/KLM) has officially become 100 years old, having been launched on October 7, 1919. The airline has been operating continuously for the past century with the same name as it was originally founded with. The airline was officially established in a solicitor’s office in the Hague on October 7 but didn’t complete its first flight until the year after, on May 17, 1920. KLM’s first aircraft was a DeHavilland DH.16, which operated its first flight, from London’s Croydon airport to Amsterdam in two hours and 15 minutes at an altitude of just 90 meters. The airline purchased its first aircraft (The DH.16 was leased) in 1920, from bankrupt British carrier AT&T. KLM bought four DeHavilland DH.9B aircraft, which helped it to expand its network. KLM’s first intercontinental flight took off in 1924, departing Amsterdam for what is now Jakarta. A technical malfunction led to a delay in the flight, making the initial service take one month and 24 days, departing Amsterdam on October 1 and arriving in modern-day Indonesia on November 24. KLM was the first European carrier to launch flights to the United States after the Second World War, with regular Douglas DC-4 service commencing in May of 1946. KLM joined the jet age in 1960 with its first Douglas DC-8 aircraft. The airline took rapidly to the new era, quickly retiring older propeller-driven aircraft in favor of newer jet-driven planes. The airline was also the first to take delivery of Boeing’s updated 747-200 variant, one of the type’s most popular due to its strong combination of range and modern technology for the time. The airline took delivery of its first Airbus, an A310, in 1983. In 1989, KLM and Northwest Airlines created one of the first airline code-sharing agreements, and the first 50/50 joint-venture, which saw the two airlines splitting revenue on transatlantic flights and codesharing on all other routes. The joint-venture lead to high load factors on KLM’s routes, leading it to be the first airline in Europe to receive the Boeing 747-400, an updated version of Boeing’s popular 747 jumbo jets. Over its history, KLM has operated dozens of 747s, including the -200, the -300, the -400, and the -400 freighter. Additionally, the airline has operated several Combi variants of the 747, with both passengers and freight located on the aircraft’s main deck. At the moment, KLM is the only carrier which operates daily flights with the Boeing 747-400 COMBI aircraft. In 2004, the Dutch flag carrier merged with Air France to form what was at the time the world’s largest airline group. Today, the airline operates a fleet of 123 aircraft, with a further 17 on order. KLM recently became the first airline in Europe to operate the Boeing 787-10, which was painted in a special livery to commemorate the airline’s 100th anniversary. KLM would be the only airline in the world to take delivery of all Douglas aircraft, starting with the DC-2 and ending with the MD-11. The airline even operated the DC-5, a type so rare that it was the only carrier to ever operate it. In addition to that, the airline also has a special connection with former manufacturer Fokker. Until retiring the last Fokker 70 in October 2017, KLM flew 98 years with aircraft built by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer. Although the airline doesn’t fly with each aircraft type built, the airline operated its flights with most of the aircraft type, more than every other airline in the world. During the century, KLM operated with several liveries. The airline started in 1919 with the classic barrel metallic livery. Later-on the airline changed it to a more white livery with a Blue Stripe. In the seventies, the airline introduced an updated livery, with more white and a smaller blue stripe. Some years late, KLM received a new logo, which changed the livery again. The largest change of KLM’s livery was in 1991 when KLM introduced the KLM Blue livery: a livery with two types of blue, with a grey belly. KLM still operates this livery. However, during the year, KLM updated the livery. First, the airline made the dark blue stripe a little bit smaller in 2004. Ten years later, KLM introduced its current version with the Dolphin wave. Meanwhile, KLM also introduced several special liveries. Good examples are the Skyteam liveries on the Boeing 737-900, Boeing 777-300ER and Embraer 190, which KLM introduced after joining Skyteam in 2004. The airline also painted a Boeing 737-800 in a 1970s Retro livery celebrating the 90th anniversary of the airline back in 2009. Unfortunately, the airline repainted this particular aircraft back in the current livery last year. The KLM Orange Pride, painted on a Boeing 777-300ER, is perhaps the most famous and remarkable special livery for KLM. Originally, it started as a joke on social media for the local Kingsday celebrations, but a few years later, KLM actually painted a Boeing 777 in the special livery for the Olympic Games in 2016. 

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