Cityhopper 'to take over KLM's European network'

3 Dec 2013 by Alex McWhirter

KLM subsidiary Cityhopper will be expanded next year to absorb the Dutch carrier's entire European network, according to reports.

Up to now, Cityhopper has been restricted to serving KLM's secondary routes.

The move will be phased in over a five-year period and is intended to save KLM millions of euros per year in operating expenses because Cityhopper staff are paid less than their KLM mainline counterparts.

Of course, the trade unions are unhappy. Across Europe, the big national airlines are hiving off their short-haul routes to subsidiaries that pay lower staff wages in order to better compete with low-cost carriers.

The difference is that KLM will be using Cityhopper to feed its main Amsterdam hub, whereas the likes of Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa tend to serve hubs with their mainline divisions in order to present passengers with a better product.

For example, Lufthansa is currently hiving off all its non-core routes to budget subsidiary German Wings. But those routes feeding lucrative long-haul passengers to its Frankfurt and Munich hubs remain pure Lufthansa mainline.

So is KLM doing the right thing from the passenger's viewpoint? Surely it would not wish to alienate its most important source of business? I say that because without feeder flights KLM could not exist in its present form

At last week's CAPA conference in Amsterdam, KLM chief operating officer Pieter Elbers claimed that 66.6 per cent of his airline's Schiphol traffic was in transit (i.e. passengers not heading to or from Amsterdam itself).

But details slowly emerging from the Dutch aviation media suggest that passengers should not notice any difference other than the flight is operated by Cityhopper.

Of course, it is too early to say what sort of onboard service or amenities will be provided. But Cityhopper is expected to take over the short-haul fleet of KLM mainline so passengers will be flying with the current mixture of Fokkers, Embraers and Boeing 737s.

So, hopefully, passengers will not notice any difference.

Alex McWhirter

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