Amsterdam - Brussels is only the beginning. KLM already has bigger plans to replace planes on short-haul routes.
In March 2020, KLM will replace one of its five daily flights between Amsterdam and Brussels with the Thalys high-speed train. The travel experience on rail should come as close as possible to that on board KLM jets, the Dutch airline explained when first presenting those plans. But implementing that is anything but easy, explains Boet Kreiken in an interview with aeroTELEGRAPH.
Tthe manager is responsible for customer experience at KLM – and thus also for the implementation of the train plans. Kreiken explains that the biggest challenge is how to handle disruptions. «If the train is late, for example. What is the next step? How do we solve this together with the railway company?»
«This is very complex, since we work with totally different systems», Kreiken says. «Or when the train is full, but your seat is not okay. And you booked a KLM ticket and complained to KLM.» We have to develop procedures to deal with something like that.
Even setting up special baggage check-in counters is not easy. «That’s what we’re currently working on,» says Kreiken. «The difficulty here is that anyone can go to any platform because it’s public space. There are security areas at the airport where luggage is moved. That’s why we need to develop something very safe.»
Preferably a blue train
Also the appearance of the trains is still planned. KLM would prefer a blue train, Kreiken admits. «We even have pictures of how we imagine it.» Should the project be a great success, there could be such a design.
But even then, caution is advised. «If, for example, a train is exchanged and the brand is no longer there, people are disappointed. If you overrun the promise and can’t keep it, it’s difficult.»
Dusseldorf, Cologne, perhaps Hamburg – and London
The train connection between Amsterdam and Brussels is a big test for KLM, says the manager. «Because I think short distances will be covered by trains in the long term. To Dusseldorf, to Cologne, perhaps to Hamburg, although that’s already quite far away.»
They also have plans for the British capital. «We will develop a product to fly to London and take the train back,» Kreiken announces. In general, however, Kreiken says, Europe still needs major investments in infrastructure for high-speed trains.
The Netherlands are difficult
And don’t forget: «Holland is essentially sand and mud.» For fast trains with speeds in excess of 300 kilometres per hour, this is a challenge, especially in curves. This is already evident in the Amsterdam – Brussels connection: «Only after Breda can you really speed up».