KLM is consistently rated as a safe airline to fly with. Among others, it was ranked number two in the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre’s (JADEC) 2022 audit. Additionally, fatal accidents involving KLM aircraft are very rare. The last one occurred 45 years ago and since then KLM has suffered only a small number of aircraft accidents.
As such, long story short, I would not hesitate to board a KLM aircraft!
KLM Operates a Modern Fleet
If you equate safety with an airline’s aircraft feet age, then let’s take a look at KLM’s fleet and the age of each of its different fleet components. Firstly, I’ll set out the age of the aircraft flying with KLM mainline (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines), and then I’ll do the same for KLM’s regional airline – KLM Cityhopper.
KLM mainline has a large fleet of mainly Boeing aircraft supplemented by some Airbus A330 aircraft. According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active KLM fleet is 12.9 years. The average KLM mainline aircraft ages by aircraft type are shown in the table below.
We can see that there is quite a range of ages across the different aircraft types. KLM’s 747s are its oldest aircraft type, with an average of 19.3 years. KLM is currently operating only three 747 aircraft all of which are freighters. KLM’s most prevalent aircraft type is the 737 NG, these were delivered between 1999 and 2019. KLM’s youngest aircraft type is its 787s which were delivered between 2015 and 2022.
|Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years||Deliveries|
|Boeing 737 NG||46||15.6||1999-2019|
KLM Cityhopper has a large fleet of Embraer aircraft. According to Airfleets.net the overall average weighted age of the active KLM Cityhopper fleet is only 7.1 years. The average KLM Cityhopper aircraft ages by aircraft type are shown in the table below.
|Aircraft||Number of Aircraft||Average Age/ years||Deliveries|
Combining KLM mainline and KLM Cityhopper gives an average fleet age of 10.9 years.
KLM’s oldest active aircraft are around 20 years old; these aircraft are not necessarily ready for retirement just yet. The operating life of a modern jet aircraft depends on the number of ‘cycles’ it operates. Aircraft operating a lot of short-haul cycles, such as 737s, can become life-expired more quickly than aircraft that operate fewer longer-haul cycles, such as a 777. But as a ‘rule of thumb,’ airlines can typically expect aircraft to last for 30 years or more if they are regularly subjected to the skilled and competent maintenance regimes employed by reputable airlines such as KLM.
An average fleet age of around 11 years is quite typical for a major international airline. For example, Lufthansa’s average fleet age is 10.5 years, United Airlines’ is 16.5 years, Air France’s is 14.3 years, and British Airways’ is 12.9 years.
KLM Is IOSA-Certified and a Member of the SkyTeam Alliance
AirlineRatings.com provides a comparison of the world’s airlines from a number of different perspectives, the website homepage can be found here:
KLM mainline and KLM Cityhopper have the highest possible, seven-star safety rating on AirlineRatings.com. While how important or unimportant these ratings are is questionable, the rating is at least a good indicator that KLM has the basics of airline safety nailed down:
- Accidents and incidents: KLM mainline and KLM Cityhopper have not suffered any fatal accidents within the last 10 years (3 stars), and have not suffered numerous safety-related incidents (2 stars).
- Audits and bans: KLM mainline and KLM Cityhopper are IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certified. This audit is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines. The audit is optional and assesses whether an airline has the necessary systems and processes in place to operate safely. Airlines are evaluated every two years. In addition, KLM mainline and KLM Cityhopper are not blacklisted in the European Union or the United States (1 star).
It is also worth noting that KLM placed second in a study of 100 airlines conducted by the Hamburg-based Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC). JACDEC assesses the 100 largest airlines as measured by their revenue passenger performance (RPKs), and the ranking is based on a variety of factors such as fleet age and accident history since 1989.
KLM’s assessed risk factor for 2022 was 93.31, just shy of Emirates which was placed first with a score of 95.5. In the same audit in 2021 KLM was placed sixth.
In addition to the above, KLM is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, one of the world’s three major airline alliances. Whilst membership in a major airline alliance is not a safety certification per se, it’s still a significant stamp of approval for the airline’s approach to safety and operations. Other SkyTeam member airlines include Air France, Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air.
KLM Incidents and Accidents
Similar to many large airlines that have had a long operational history and that operate a large fleet, KLM aircraft have been involved in a number of incidents. Many of these were unavoidable natural events such as bird strikes, unexpected turbulence, and lightning strikes.
If we look back over the last 40 years, KLM aircraft were involved in only a small number of ‘true’ accidents. KLM’s worst accident occurred 45 years ago at Tenerife Airport when KLM flight 4805 operated by a Boeing 747 collided with a Pan Am Boeing 747 in heavy fog. This accident resulted in 583 fatalities. The Pan American 747 had 61 survivors, while all passengers and crew on the KLM 747 died. Since this terrible accident, KLM has not suffered any fatal accidents.
Within the last forty years, we see just five notable non-fatal KLM incidents (excluding bird strikes, etc.), as shown in the table below:
|June 1983||DC-10||Tocumen International Airport, Panama||Runway excursion on landing and subsequent nose gear collapse.|
|January 1994||Fokker 100||Amsterdam Schiphol Airport||Hard landing that resulted in main landing gear collapse.|
|December 2013||B737||Amsterdam Schiphol Airport||The KLM 737 was struck by a US Airways 757 while parked, shearing off the 737’s left winglet.|
|February 2019||B747 and B787||Amsterdam Schiphol Airport||The KLM 747 struck a KLM 787 during pushback. The 747’s right winglet struck the right-side horizontal stabilizer on the 787.|
|July 2019||B737||Amsterdam Schiphol Airport||The KLM 737 struck an easyJet A320 during pushback. The A320’s left winglet struck the left side elevator on the 737.|
Summary: Is Flying with KLM Safe?
Yes, it is, and while it has had some non-fatal incidents over the last forty years or so, there have been no fatal accidents since 1977. In addition, KLM operates with safety protocols and procedures that are endorsed by its IOSA certification which is the benchmark for global safety management in airlines.
KLM is part of the Air France/KLM group which is one of Europe’s biggest airline operators, transporting large volumes of passengers each year safely. I think it’s fair to say that KLM is a very safe airline to fly with.
If you are wondering what flying with KLM is like, check our reviews: