KLM Cityhopper 55 years old: from domestic toddler to European player

On Sunday (September 12), KLM will celebrate the 55th anniversary of subsidiary KLM Cityhopper, although the first flights were already operated on August 29, 1966. The Nederlandse Luchtvaart Maatschappij (NLM) launched two Fokker F-27 Troopships leased from the Royal Netherlands Air Force with flights to Maastricht via Eindhoven and to Groningen via Enschede.

Domestic flights were not new: in the 1930s and in the years after the Second World War, KLM already maintained a domestic route network, but this soon proved to be no longer profitable. Due to the economic development of the southern, eastern and northern Netherlands and the population growth in these regions, there was a need again from the 1960s for a domestic network of fast flight connections.

Fokker F-27 of the NLM at Eelde in the sixties.

In the 1966-1967 annual report, the KLM management spoke of a ‘satisfactory’ result with an average occupancy rate of 46 percent on the northern line and 35 percent on the southern line in the first half of the year. The lines were opened primarily to accommodate business in their need for fast connections. But there was also another target group: the youth. KLM wanted to make it possible for young people to get acquainted with aviation. In addition to the scheduled flights, the NLM also provided many sightseeing flights.

The NLM did not limit the flights only to the Netherlands. Additional Fokker F-27s were added to the fleet and international destinations such as Bremen and Hamburg were added to the route network. In 1976, when the NLM celebrated its tenth anniversary, ‘CityHopper’ was added to the name. With this name it was the intention to also be clearly recognizable as a brand abroad and to be able to distinguish itself.

An important milestone was the delivery of the first jet aircraft to NLM CityHopper in 1978: the Fokker F-28 Fellowship. The company received four of that type. A black day in the life of NLM CityHopper was 6 October 1981: an F-28 crashed near Moerdijk on its way from Rotterdam to Eindhoven during a heavy thunderstorm. All seventeen people on board were killed; a firefighter on the ground who saw the accident succumbed to a heart attack.

Promotion of NLM scheduled services from Rotterdam to London and Paris in the 1980s.

From the regional Dutch airports, NLM CityHopper operated flights to various European destinations. At Schiphol, the airline slowly but surely developed into a ‘feeder’ for transfer passengers at Schiphol. In 1988 KLM took over the regional Dutch airline Netherlines. In 1991 both KLM subsidiaries were merged under the name KLM Cityhopper. In 1988, KLM also took an interest in the British regional airline Air UK, which became fully Dutch owned in the late 1990s and eventually merged into KLM Cityhopper.

‘New’ Breeders
In the first year under the new name KLM Cityhopper, the network now consisted of 36 destinations. Domestically, there was only flown from Schiphol to Eindhoven and Maastricht. KLM Cityhopper flew from Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Maastricht to cities such as London and Paris. The familiar F-27s had since been replaced by new Fokker 50s, while smaller Saab 340s were also used on less busy routes until the late 1990s. The Fokker 70, of which ten were ordered, was the logical replacement for the F-28 from 1996.

Even after the bankruptcy of Fokker, KLM Cityhopper continued to fly fully with aircraft from the Dutch aircraft manufacturer. Used Fokkers were purchased all over the world. In 2006 the fleet consisted of 55 Fokker aircraft, of which 20 Fokker 100s, 21 Fokker 70s and 14 Fokker 50s. The number of European destinations had increased to more than 45 and at that time five million passengers were transported per year. It was already known that the Fokkers would be replaced.

Around 2000: three Fokker 50s, two from KLM Cityhopper and one from KLM UK, on ​​the Schiphol apron. In the background two ATR 42s from franchise partner KLM Exel.

The choice fell on the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. KLC opted for the E190, an aircraft with 100 seats. The fuel consumption of these slender twin-engined aircraft was clearly lower than that of the Fokkers and the aircraft were the same size as the Fokker 100 with 100 seats. In November 2008 the first Embraer 190 arrived at Schiphol. From 2016, the smaller E175+, with room for 88 passengers, also joined the fleet.

As Embraers were put into service, more and more Fokkers left the fleet. The last Fokker 50 was taken out of service in 2010, the last Fokker 100 in 2012. On October 28, 2017, KLM Cityhopper operated the very last Fokker 70 flights. The Fokker era had come to an end after many decades, but the fleet renewal was not yet complete. In February, KLM Cityhopper received the very first E195-E2: a quieter, more economical and also longer version of the E190, which can carry 132 passengers.

Recovery after lockdown
KLM Cityhopper played an important role in the recovery of the route network after the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. Because passenger volumes were still low, KLM decided to deploy the small Embraers of KLM Cityhopper on intra-European routes that normally operate with Boeing. 737s were run. KLM cabin crew was even seconded to KLC.
KLC also provides flight operations to new destinations that KLM added to the route network this year, such as Dubrovnik, Verona and Mallorca.

In 55 years, the NLM grew from a small company with only 22 employees and two leased aircraft into a mature company with a fleet of 53 aircraft, which nowadays accounts for a large part of all European flights in the KLM network with 80 destinations. takes.

KLM Cityhopper E2
The economical and quiet Embraer 195-E2 is the latest addition to KLM Cityhopper.


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