Business

KLM eyes second daily flight from Belfast City to Schiphol

Warner Rootliep
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DUTCH airline KLM plans to introduce a second daily flight from Belfast to Amsterdam next summer, its UK chief revealed yesterday.

And Warner Rootliep confirmed that the load factor on its George Best Belfast City-Schiphol route last month, at 85 per cent, was the highest from any UK airport.

Rootliep, who is UK and Ireland general manager for Air France –KLM, was in Belfast to mark the first year anniversary of the Amsterdam link.

He said he was "hugely satisfied" with what was "a bit of a gamble" in launching the service using a 70-seater Fokker plane, and which benefited from Stormont-endorsed subsidies.

But he admitted more frequency is now required, especially since the timing of the weekday flight (it departs Belfast City at 2.20pm) doesn't afford Northern Ireland travellers the full benefits of KLM's direct onwards connectivity to hundreds of destinations in South America, the Middle East and the Far East.

"From all UK destinations 75 per cent of travellers connect onwards from Schiphol, with only 25 per cent going point-to-point.

"But only 45 per cent of Northern Ireland passengers using the Belfast-Amsterdam service transfer onwards. That's the lowest in the UK and something we need to improve," he said.

"KLM is a company in profit again, and with our additional resources we want to move to bigger aircraft and greater frequency from Belfast. That will definitely happen in the next two years," Rootliep told guests at a Publicity Association of Northern Ireland (PANI) breakfast yesterday.

Air France-KLM, which employs 95,000 people including 1,600 in the UK, carried 87 million passengers and 1.3 million tonnes of cargo last year.

Schiphol is the linchpin of the its network, and as one of the busiest airports in Europe serving more than 300 destinations, it is seen as an attractive super-hub with quick and easy transfer facilities for passengers on popular routes such as Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok.

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