A major airline like KLM, which transports passengers and freight to every corner of the globe, is directly affected by everything that happens in the world. Weather conditions, natural disasters, political unrest – if something goes wrong, it has an immediate impact on the schedule, and therefore on passengers and customers.
Where necessary, we adapt our processes to the world situation. If it’s sensible to do so, we carry on flying as normal and provide our customers with the product they have bought. If it’s not wise to do so – and we decide that in close consultation with parties such as the Dutch government, the World Health Organisation and the local authorities – we offer our customers extra flexibility for a limited period. We might, for example, allow them to cancel or change their tickets irrespective of their original ticket conditions.
Of course our customers themselves also have a choice. That starts when they book a ticket. The passenger decides at the start how much flexibility he or she wants. Naturally this is always a question of balancing cost and benefits – if you want to be able to change your ticket at the last moment, you will have to pay more. You can find all the information about this at klm.com
But this is what applies in an ordinary situation. Unfortunately we are regularly faced with extraordinary situations, such as the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in March of last year and, more recently, the political upheavals in parts of the Middle East and North Africa and the earthquake in Japan. In all of these cases, we assess the current situation on a day-to-day basis in close consultation with the authorities to find the best way of serving our customers. We also assess when we will be able to resume normal operations.
For example, in the case of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the subsequent problems with the Fukushima nuclear power station, we continued to fly to Tokyo and Osaka in order to fulfil our obligations to outbound and incoming passengers. But we also provided extra flexibility in the period up to 8 May, allowing passengers to cancel or change their tickets free of charge. Since the situation in Japan has stabilised, we have returned to the normal ticket conditions. We still have to field questions about this from time to time, which is understandable. To help to clarify situations like these, we refer to government advice – in this case from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – which states that it is possible to travel to Japan with the exception of certain areas. If this advice changes, for Japan or other destinations, we reassess whether our schedules should be readjusted.