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How KLM Will Ensure Sustainable Operations Going Into the Future

KLM 787-9 Las Vegas LAS

A KLM 787-9 parked on the tarmac in Las Vegas. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Terrill Murriel)

In the aviation industry,  the ability to transport and satisfy the passengers timely and efficiently while still being able to pay the employees and make a profit are the ultimate goals for operating an airline. However, for the Air France-KLM group, their goals and visions for the aviation industry after the global pandemic is what they think will differentiate them from their competition.

Recently, the partnership’s sustainability report for 2019 was released and for the 15th consecutive year, the Air France-KLM group secured a spot in the top three for the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). KLM President and CEO Pieter Elbers reflected upon the airline’s progress and accomplishments, in terms of the environment and how this will impact the airline’s performance after the pandemic. 

“In the past 30 years, KLM has already taken many steps towards making aviation more sustainable, and last year this was reflected in the sustainability initiative Fly Responsibly,” Elbers said. “A sustainable operation, innovation, and collaboration with other parties have been – and still are – the foundations on which our operation is built and they will continue to play a vital role in the reconstruction of our company and sector coming out of this crisis.”

In June 2019, KLM launched the “Fly Responsibly” initiative as part of its extensive plan and ongoing commitment to ensure a more sustainable future for the aviation industry. “Fly Responsibly” encompasses all of the carrier’s intentions to make its operations more environmentally friendly and consists of three pillars: Reduce, Replace and Compensate. As a result, the Amsterdam-based carrier has cut its total carbon emissions by four percent and 31 percent per passenger since 2005. The airline’s fleet renewal contributed immensely to this result. 

In 2019, KLM took delivery of eight new, fuel-efficient aircraft including the Boeing 787-10.  Additionally, the airline hopes to continue investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for the new aircraft. This will enable KLM to use more sustainable fuel. However, the airline’s efforts to be more sustainable are not just happening in the air. 

The Amsterdam-based carrier has taken further steps to reduce carbon emissions by buying in green energy and deploying electric ground equipment. Therefore, KLM was able to reduce its ground emissions by 50 percent compared to the previous year. Moreover, the airline has invested in innovative ways to reduce non-recyclable waste including recycling certain catering items in a closed system and recycling bottles into a 3D-printer filament to make durable aircraft maintenance tools. These tools are one of the contributors to the success of the “Flying V” program. 

KLM’s “Flying V” program consists of research and design to construct a more innovative and inventive aircraft design. The concept represents a brand-new approach to aerospace engineering and design, which will alleviate the effects of long-haul flying on the environment. Despite the global pandemic and the enormous changes in the aviation sector, KLM intends to continue allocating more resources to the initiative of ensuring that air travel continues being considered a sustainable form of transportation. 

“The impact of the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented and it is still unclear how exactly the world and societies will look like after this pandemic. The crisis has hit the globe as it transitions to a more sustainable economy,” Elbers added. “The aviation sector is also undergoing fundamental change as a result. Even in these difficult times, KLM will not lose sight of the challenges that climate change poses to society. Even better, our work will be continued with even more effort.”

Benjamin Pham


  • Benjamin Pham

    Benjamin has had a love for aviation since a young age, growing up in Tampa with a strong interest in airplane models and playing with them. When he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, Benjamin took part in aviation photography for a couple of years at Gravelly Point and Dulles Airport, before dedicating planespotting to only when he traveled to the other airports. He is an avid, world traveler, having been able to reach 32 countries, yearning to explore and understand more cultures soon. Currently, Benjamin is an Air Transporation Management student at Arizona State University. He hopes to enter the airline industry to improve the passenger experience and loyalty programs while keeping up to how technology is being integrated into airports.

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