KLM: Amsterdam – Aruba no more
After almost seven decades of faithful service to Aruba, KLM – owned by French airline giant Air France-KLM – today announced its ceases operations to Aruba effective March 2009. Can you guess the reason? That’s right, the economy.
For most part in the seven decades KLM operated Amsterdam – Aruba virtually without any serious competition, until a few years ago when Martinair (recently KLM acquired 100% of Martinair) and Arkefly started flying to Aruba. Martinair announced it’s ‘adjusting’ the schedule to cope with the new reality which most likely means additional flights.
Last year I read an article on KLM competitiveness where it states that most routes where KLM operates from Amsterdam it has little competition. On about only 14% of its routes it has more than two rivals operating, from which only two are trans-atlantic: Aruba and Toronto. In hindsight it was more a question of when and not if the route to Aruba was going to be abandoned. KLM seems to be the weaker of the three, as the airliner isn’t making a load of money on the route anymore.
Another difference between KLM and Martinair/Arkefly is that KLM operates the tri-jet MD11 aircraft type with a seating capacity of around 290 seats, while Martinair/Arkefly operate twin-jet Boeing 767-300 aircraft type with around 270 seats. I’m sure one is more efficient than the other.
History doesn’t count – as it shouldn’t – when operating in a difficult business as the airline business. KLM will surely be missed in Aruba. Not necessarily as a company rather more as an iconic symbol and the long bond between Aruba and Holland. In the old days the only way to leave this island was through the air and the farthest away one could go was with KLM to Amsterdam. Also you felt a little pride when you passed Aruba airport and saw how the tale of the blue KLM plane towered above American giants such American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines or United Airlines.
As a kid I remembered when I stepped onto the giant aircraft and had the time of my life. I traveled to Holland, Panama and Costa Rica with KLM in the 80s. Lately the feeling isn’t like that anymore. In fact it was more of a drag as the seats seem very tight, long lines at the gates and the flights weren’t non-stop anymore.
Update: Local officials are needless to say not amused by the measure. Local tourism minister said to be disappointed as he said that he spoke with KLM not so long ago about a new European ad-campaign financed by Aruba in order to fill the seats to Aruba.
The minister continued saying that the reasoning, in his opinion, is without logic. Why flights to other Dutch islands, such as Bonaire and St. Maarten continues in some form, while not to Aruba. He finalized by saying that KLM charged an average of 90 Euros more for tickets to Aruba than the other Dutch islands, thus considered it a premium destination.
On the other side, local airport officials declared that one third of the capacity from Amsterdam is slashed and revenue will be down with about $1.5 million this year.
As Kevin mentioned this could be a nightmare for travelers in Europe, as KLM was the easiest option even with all the extra stops.
Update: Starting February 2010, KLM restored the route Amsterdam – Aruba using a Boeing 747-400.