From left: John Keells Transportation Sector President Romesh David, Air France-KLM MEGI Region Senior Vice President Welmer Blom and Air France-KLM Indian Sub-Continent General Manager Max Smits
Pic by Samantha Perera
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, part of the KLM-Air France group, will recommence direct flights to Colombo from November 1, almost after a lapse of 20 years, becoming the only European carrier to directly service Colombo.
The airline plans to fly twice a week to Colombo—leaving Colombo on Tuesday and Saturday and return from the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Monday and Friday.
Colombo will be the 14th new destination for KLM this year and among the airline’s winter season additions, which include Tehran and Miami.
KLM, which began operations in 1919, flies to 320 destinations in 140 countries and is the oldest airline to operate under its original name.
KLM officials said though the resumption of flights was a seasonal arrangement for this winter season, the airline will consider flying regularly to Colombo based on the customer demand and other commercial factors.
The airline will be deploying a brand-new Boeing 878 Dreamliner with state-of-the-art facilities such as dimmable windows, to service the route and the plane will have 30 Business Class seats, 48 Economy Comfort seats and 216 Economy seats.
“We have had an extremely good reception from the government and the local travel industry in general on our return,” Air France-KLM MEGI Region Senior Vice President Welmer Blom told reporters in Colombo, last week.
He further said the re-entry marks the general optimistic approach of KLM towards Sri Lanka with the cessation of the civil conflict and the growing demand from Dutch and other European tourists for Sri Lanka’s tourism product.
National carrier SriLankan Airlines’ plans to suspend operations to Frankfurt and Paris by this November in a cost-cutting exercise and this will provide KLM a very good window of opportunity to lure in outbound travellers from Colombo to Europe as well.
KLM operates over 15 flights to Paris from Schiphol per day, five flights to Frankfurt and another five flights to London. KLM officials said over 70 percent of the airline’s business is connections.
KLM ceased flying to Colombo in 1997 due to “economical reasons”, according to KLM officials, who were in Colombo last week. The airline was operating three flights a week.
General sales agent (GSA) for KLM in Sri Lanka, John Keells Transportation President Romesh David said he was extremely pleased and happy to welcome back KLM to Sri Lanka.