KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the national carrier of the Netherlands, has revealed plans to expand its short-haul network with the addition of three further international destinations to its route map. The carrier will introduce new scheduled services from Amsterdam to Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK; Krakow, Poland and Montpellier, France from May 18, 2015 with flights to be operated by its KLM cityhopper regional business.
“Our aim is to develop our medium haul network on a continuous basis. By the opening of these three new routes, we can offer more destinations to our customers while we also expand the hub function of Amsterdam,” said Pieter Elbers, president and chief executive officer, KLM.
The link to Belfast will mark the return of KLM branded operations to Northern Ireland’s capital city, its 14th destination in the UK market. The daily route, operated using a Fokker 70, will serve George Best Belfast City Airport and will come almost 15 years after the market was last served by KLM uk in October 1999, albeit then serving Belfast International Airport.
The Dutch carrier aims to take advantage of the emergence of Belfast as a developing business and leisure destination as it moves away from its historic industries such as shipbuilding to develop as a centre for the arts, higher education, business, and law. Tourism Ireland hopes to grow foreign visitor numbers from around three million in 2012 to 4.5 million by the end of this decade.
The new route (schedule: KL947 AMS1000 – 1040BHD F70 D; KL948 BHD1115 – 1350AMS F70 D) will place KLM in indirect competition with easyJet on the city pair, with the latter offering regular flights between Belfast International Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol. The Belfast City– Amsterdam Schiphol route being flown by KLM was last served between October 2011 and June 2012 by now defunct low-cost carrier bmibaby.
The new daily route to Krakow, host city of Routes Europe 2016, will be flown by an Embraer 190 and will be KLM’s second destination in Poland, complementing its flights to the capital, Warsaw (schedule: KL1995 AMS1425 – 1620KRK E90 D; KL1996 KRK1655 – 1855AMS E90 D).
There is an intense rivalry between Poland’s two major cities and while Warsaw is currently the centre of the country’s political and economic life, Krakow feels that, as the country’s former capital and the resting place of its kings, it is their city which can claim to be the cultural heart of the country.
KLM will operate alongside Polish carrier EuroLOT on the Amsterdam – Krakow route, the latter having introduced flights from its parent carrier LOT Polish Airlines in June 2012 operated by a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop.
The third new route will see KLM introduce the only non-stop link between Amsterdam and Montpellier in the south of France. The daily route, its sixth to France, will be flown using a Fokker 70 and will complement the existing flights of KLM’s sister business Air France to the city from Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports (schedule: KL1405 AMS1440 – 1635MPL F70 D; KL1406 MPL1710 – 1910AMS F70 D).
Montpellier is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, located on the south coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea. The historic city is the eighth largest in the country and is home to the University of Montpellier, one of the oldest universities in the world.
The Amsterdam – Montpellier route was previously served by Transavia (now KLM’s predominantly leisure offering) between April 2008 and October 2010 and the Dutch carrier continues to link the French city to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. There is certainly a point-to-point demand on the city pair but the route also means that for the first time Montpellier will have a significant schedule connection with another major hub in addition to Paris CDG.
According to analysis from Montpellier Méditerranée Airport there is strong latent potential for long-haul traffic to many global markets from the Languedoc-Roussillon region including the Americas & Asia, particularly to many of the markets that are served strongly from Amsterdam by the KLM network. The new route, it hopes, will encourage more business and leisure flows to the Languedoc Roussillon region and complement the existing Paris hub link.
In our analysis, below, we look at the point-to-point demand between Amsterdam and Belfast, Krakow and Montpellier based on bi-directional O&D passenger flows over the past ten years. This data is heavily influenced by the available non-stop capacity as is particularly clear in the Amsterdam - Montpellier case, but it also highlights the base demand on each of the three city pairs.