On many occasions, environmentalists would comment that short haul routes are not climate friendly. This compounds when there are rail alternatives available that could shorten the total travel time. Recognizing environmental concerns, KLM will begin offering air-rail options starting March 29, 2020 for passengers looking to reduce carbon footprint.
KLM currently operates the only non-stop flight between Brussels Airport (BRU) to his main hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) with a five time daily service using a mix fleet via KLM Cityhopper (Embraer RJ 175 and 190) and KLM mainline aircrafts (Boeing 737). While flight time is typically scheduled for between 45-50 minutes, actual travel time including to/from airport, security and walking inside the airports could be a minimum of 150 minutes.
As a comparison, the 200 kilometers (125 miles) journey between downtown Brussels and Amsterdam would take around 135 minutes by car (without traffic) and 125 to 150 minutes by train based on schedule.
As most passengers between the city pair are business related, KLM saw the opportunity to connect these passengers by working with NS (Dutch Rail) and high speed rail operator, Thalys. The airline will reduce one frequency on its flying schedule and introduce one using rail on March 29, 2020. The goal is to allow passengers to buy a ticket with a rail segment through klm.com, its mobile application and through travel agents. There will be a special Air&Rail check-in desk at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for rail passengers.
On the news, KLM president and CEO Pieter Elbers commented, “Intermodal transport by train and plane is still complex and has challenges. It is also about speed, both for the train connection itself and for the transfer process at the airport. This reduction from five to four [flight] frequencies is a good way to continue working on this and to gain more Air and Rail experience.”
Inter-modal Transport and Customer Experience
KLM joins fellow SkyTeam Alliance member Air France to offer travel between city pair with other transport modal companies. Experience The Skies published an insight on how airlines led by United Airlines, Austrian and Lufthansa on including rail segments in an airline ticketed itinerary. The latter further include short and long distance buses in the mix within Germany.
KLM can maximize the customer experience on this integration in the following ways:
- Engage – Ensure the targeted demographics (business travellers on day trip) would be aware of the new partnership by engaging them through a mix of promotions and communication (especially to those who have travelled on this itinerary in the past 12 months).
- Acquire – Ensure that the ticket purchase process is the same for rail options are the same as the air ones. The means, ticketing buckets and their attributes need to line up with established tiers. Customers should clearly know that they are buying a ticket on rail over air. In addition, loyalty program and lounge access privileges would need to be aligned based on status and ticketing type.
- Manage – Create a dedicated feedback system to monitor how the new service is perceived and how needs are managed. Additionally, training is required to ensure both dedicated airline and rail employees can address questions. Mobile application features and communication could be added to ensure customers know that they are taking the rail option.
Behind the scenes, KLM needs to ensure system integration are designed and tested so that ticketing and changes for rail segment are managed without issues. At initial rollout, the airline is best to communicate any shortcomings (e.g. tickets with rail segments may be changed following airline over rail operator rules) in order for customers to set the right expectations. While the new service is only for one city pair, it could be a good idea to lay out the groundwork for additional rail integration between other cities to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.