Published on November 6th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
KLM returns to Dublin as part of an expansion of services as industrial relations issues simmer on long haul.
Dublin Airport welcomed the return of Dutch Airline KLM, with the launch of the airline’s new twice daily direct service from Amsterdam to Dublin, on 30th October. The inaugural service from Amsterdam, the KL935, operated by Embraer ERJ-190STD, PH-EXE, departed Schiphol Airport at 12:23 (local) and landed at Dublin at 12:38. The return flight, the KL936 departed Dublin at 13:43 and landed back in Amsterdam at 15:52.
The airline is initially operating the service at a twice daily frequency, with the second flight being a late night arrival in Dublin, and an overnight, allowing an early morning departure from Dublin. It will further strengthen this service from March 2017 by doubling capacity on the route.
The inaugural second service, the KL939, operated by Embraer ERJ-190STD, PH-EZB, arrived in Dublin at 21:43, having departed Amsterdam at 21:32 (local). It overnighted and departed the following morning as the KL932 at 06:34 and landed back in Amsterdam at 08:56. This two flight schedule has been devised to compliment KLM’s long-haul network, offering passengers easy connections to destinations such as Johannesburg, Havana, Beijing and Hong Kong. The Embraer ERJ-190 being used on the route, carrying up to 100 passengers, allows the airline to match capacity to demand. This aircraft has two cabins and three travel classes; a full Business and Economy class as well as Economy Comfort. Seat pitch in Business and Economy Comfort class is 84 cm (33”) and 79 cm (31”) in Economy Class.
Welcoming KLM’s new route Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison said; “It’s 50 years since KLM last operated in Ireland and we are delighted to welcome the airline back to Dublin. We are particularly pleased that KLM has already committed to increasing its frequency on the route next year, which is testament to the popularity of this destination and the strong connections that KLM offers from Schiphol.”
As previously noted, KLM is today the oldest airline still operating under its original name. It was founded on 7th October, 1919 to serve the Netherlands and its colonies. As Mr. Harrison noted, it also has a rich history in Dublin. Although it commenced an Amsterdam-London schooled service on 17th May 1920 and expanded significantly over the next 20 years, including long haul, its operations were dramatically curtailed by the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939. The end of the war however allowed it resume and expand operations. On 15th April 1947 a new Amsterdam-Manchester-Dublin service was announced and on the 20th May 1947, KLM became the first Continental European airline to serve Dublin, operating three times per week (to Dublin on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Amsterdam the following day).
The inaugural service was operated by Douglas DC-3, PH-TBP and not unlike the present schedule, it involved the aircraft arriving in Dublin in the evening and returning to Amsterdam the following day. The KLM service was the second scheduled service linking Dublin with Continental Europe, as Aer Lingus had commenced a Dublin-Paris route, in June 1946. Interestingly, the Amsterdam service was also operated in conjunction with Aer Lingus, no mean feat for a newly formed airline serving a small country.
By the 1965/66 winter schedule, KLM was operating the Viscount 803 on the route, albeit at a much reduced frequency. It was also the last season for the service, due in part to the imminent withdrawal of the Viscount, from KLM service. It was appropriate therefore that it fell to Viscount 803, PH-VII, to operate the last KLM scheduled service on the Amsterdam-Manchester-Dublin route, on 27th March 1966.
Speaking at the launch of the service Boet Kreiken, Managing Director, KLM Cityhopper, added; “We are proud to be flying to Ireland’s beautiful capital in KLM Cityhopper’s Embraer 190. The addition of Dublin to KLM’s route network is yet another endorsement of continuous investment to best serve the market. Ireland is experiencing a blossoming economy and strong growth in the tourism sector. Besides the Dublin-Amsterdam route, the direct KLM connection offers access to KLM’s European and intercontinental network – and all at attractive prices, and featuring an excellent flight schedule.”
This winter’s schedule involves the KL932 departing Dublin at 05.55 and arriving in Amsterdam at 08.30 (local). Then the KL935 departs Amsterdam at 12:10 hours and arrives at 12:50 local time in Dublin. The return flight, the KL936 departs at 13:20 hours, arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 15:55 hours. The evening flight (the KL939) leaves Amsterdam at 21:20 hours and arrives in Dublin at 22:00 hours and overnights. These timings are slightly different from those originally published. The flight time varies between 1:35 and 1:40 hours for the 466 mile (750 km) service. There is a one hour time difference between the two airports.
KLM to resume London City service
On 2nd November, KLM announced that it would resume service to London City Airport, after an absence of almost eight years. KLM will begin with a daily service on 6th February 2017 and, in the weeks thereafter, it will increase frequency to four daily flights on weekdays and one to two flights a day on weekends.
The flights will also be operated by KLM Cityhopper again using Embraer 190 equipment. In addition to this service, KLM also offers its passengers various flights to London City in cooperation with CityJet, from Rotterdam. Previously the Amsterdam service was operated in cooperation with CityJet, so there will be an obvious, if not yet quantified effect, on their current three times daily weekday service, with a reduced weekend frequency.
London City is KLM’s 17th destination in the United Kingdom served directly from Amsterdam. The launch of service to London City confirms the importance of the United Kingdom within the KLM network.
In a comment Mr. Kreiken said “Once again, KLM is strengthening its European network by flying independently to London City. From now on, passengers on this route can enjoy all the advantages of KLM services and digital products. And the flight schedule is extremely attractive for business travellers”.
KLM Cityhopper operates a total of 30 Embraer ERJ-190s, in addition to 13 Fokker 70s, which are being withdrawn from service. It has also has recently taken delivery of the fourth of 17 Embraer 175s it has on order. PH-EXJ landed at 18.30 at Schiphol Airport on 21st October and the airline expects to receive its fifth Embraer 175 in January 2017.
All not well with KLM on the industrial relations front
In an effort to improve productivity, KLM presented a vision of the future to cabin crew unions earlier this year, which fell partly within the framework of ‘Perform 2020’, the airlines strategic plan. Perform 2020 is the successor to ‘Transform 2015’, which represented the first phase in the Air France-KLM Group’s turnaround, aimed at maintaining the imperatives of competitiveness and the ongoing strengthening of the Group’s financial position. KLM’s new vision responds to the changing needs of customers and contributes to ‘Perform 2020’s’ targets. At the heart of this vision is the plan to assign extra cabin crew to World Business Class for selected destinations and to have one managing crew member over and above the normal team, instead of two.
KLM presented a proposal to its cabin crew unions which entailed appointing one purser to work in-team, from the start of the winter schedule, (with one of the two managing crew members working over and above the normal team on intercontinental flights). This would have made it possible to achieve the productivity gains required. Because the purser’s responsibilities are laid down in the collective labour agreement (CLA), this proposal could only be implemented in consultation with the cabin unions.
Because of another dispute and deadlock in negotiations over pensions, the cabin crew unions refused to join KLM in talks and KLM felt compelled to seek what it described as “an alternative solution within the possibilities offered by the current CLA”. From the start of the winter schedule on 30th October 2016, KLM decided that 300-seater aircraft, (Boeing 777-200, Airbus 330-300 and Boeing 787), would have two managing crew members in addition to the normal team, with one less Cabin Attendant in Economy Class. This change affected around 40% of long-haul flights and KLM believe it would have the least impact on passengers, while generating a large part of the required 4% productivity gains.
In response, on 26th October, cabin crew unions FNV and VNC announced that they had called on cabin crew to observe a work stoppage of 10 minutes, directly after the cabin crew briefing. This limited industrial action took place on 27th/28th October from 05:00 to 23:00 hours on all flights departing from Amsterdam. The main consequences for passengers were some delays and longer boarding times. KLM have said however that the action could cause “significant financial damage to KLM”. It again appealed to the cabin crew unions to “join it at the negotiation table to discuss productivity gains and to seek different ways to achieve the same results”.
KLM prepared to go to court to resolve industrial relations issues
Notwithstanding its stated desire to join with its unions at the negotiation table, KLM has shown that it is also prepared to go to the courts if it feels it is necessary. In relation to the pension dispute, on 27th September, it announced that the Amsterdam District Court had ruled in favour of KLM in the pension dispute. This concerned KLM’s cancellation of the protocol regarding Structural Surpluses and Deficits (Structureel Overschotten en Tekorten or STROT) with the VNV (the Dutch Airline Pilots’ Association) starting 1st December 2016.
KLM views the court’s decision as a vindication of its position concerning the new pension legislation of 1st January 2015 and KLM does not believe that it must automatically bear the consequences of the legislation.
Cancelling the STROT protocol with the VNV and the financing agreement with the Pension Fund is accepted as “an extreme measure” by KLM. It states that the unintended consequences brought about by changes to the legislation, combined with low interest rates, would force KLM to make disproportionately high supplementary payments, which would impact the company’s financial situation and endanger jobs in the future. However, KLM is confident it will be able to arrive at a suitable solution with the VNV.
On 2nd November KLM announced that it had initiated, what were described as “preliminary relief proceedings”, in response to a notification by the FNV Cabin Crew and VNC unions indicating that they will not be complying with KLM’s demand for it to enter into consultation.
By initiating these preliminary relief proceedings, KLM is requesting the court to rule on the validity of the consultation obligations of the cabin crew unions under the applicable collective labour agreement. KLM decided to do so because the unions have for almost a year refused to enter into collective negotiations, while nonetheless conducting industrial action. The collective labour agreement states that negotiations must take place first, and that only if these fail can mediation be sought, followed as a last resort by industrial action.
KLM’s second demand is that with respect to strikes of longer than 40 minutes, the unions must indicate 24-hours in advance who will and will not be participating in any intended work stoppage. This is necessary in order to guarantee passengers manageable flight operations (where cancellations and re-bookings are unavoidable).
At the court’s explicit request, the unions have indicated that they will not extend their actions to longer work stoppages (of more than 40 minutes) as long as the court has not yet ruled. In any event, this means that there will be no work stoppages of longer than 40 minutes until Wednesday.
KLM previously reached collective labour agreements with ground personnel and cockpit crew specifying these productivity improvements and it believes that cabin crew cannot lag behind their colleagues. KLM say that their terms and conditions of employment “are outstanding in comparison with other companies in the Netherlands and other airlines”.