KLM to launch China flights
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will launch a twice-weekly Amsterdam to Beijing service on June 26, the culmination of five years of negotiations.
Vincent Vogt, KLM manager for China, Hong Kong and Macau, said the company's nine-year service to Taiwan had been a stumbling block in securing the run to Beijing.
As part of its agreement with the Chinese Government, KLM will fly the Beijing route while a subsidiary company, KLM Asia, will fly to Taiwan. The China route will be serviced by a Boeing 747-400 on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Mr Vogt said the company was pleased that an agreement had been finalised.
About 40 per cent of the passengers on the Beijing run will be businessmen.
'It has finally opened the door to a potentially lucrative market and we hope to expand rapidly to Shanghai and other cities,' he said.
'Booking figures show the flights are already full, indicating the demand is there in Europe.' The airline's original request for four weekly flights to Beijing and Shanghai was denied.
Mr Vogt said KLM relied on the European market for its passengers because Holland's domestic market was small.
'One of the powers behind KLM is Schiphol airport which is a very sophisticated airport and is known as an international hub for passengers flying on to other destinations,' he said.
KLM has more than 180 flights daily from Schiphol, Amsterdam. It is also part of a global network that includes Northwest Airlines, Air UK, Transavia and Martinair as partners.
'Between 80 and 90 per cent of our passengers carry two boarding cards to make a connecting flight elsewhere,' Mr Vogt said.
KLM has been flying to the territory since 1976. From July 5, the Hong Kong to Amsterdam run will increase from four to five times a week with the additional flight on Fridays.
The Hong Kong flights now depart at 10.25 am from Kai Tak, allowing passengers to reach their destination in Europe by early evening. An agreement with China to fly a direct route over the country has cut flying time by an hour.
KLM now flies three times a week to Manila and today begins flights to the Indonesian port of Surabaya in Java - a stopover for the Amsterdam to Bali service.
KLM will offer almost 41,000 flights between March 31 and October 26 this year, an increase of more than 200 from last summer.