Speech by Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra at the unveiling of the 100th KLM Delft Blue miniature house
Speech by Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra at the unveiling of the 100th KLM Delft Blue miniature house, 7 October 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a privilege to have this opportunity to congratulate you and speak to you on your one hundredth birthday.
In the Netherlands, when someone reaches the age of a hundred, it’s tradition for the mayor to visit, but today I get to do the honours.
I have to say that you look terrific for your age.
Mes chers amis français, c’est un grand plaisir de vous recevoir ici, pour célébrer le fait que l’histoire de KLM est désormais aussi une histoire française.
Que cet avenir commun soit sans nuages !
It will be a real honour to accept KLM’s one-hundredth miniature house in a few minutes.
I know that many passionate collectors have been looking forward to this day for years.
I have to say that this excellent feat of marketing has fascinated me for a long time: grown up men and women find themselves compelled to book much more expensive flights just to get their hands on a miniature porcelain house.
It’s a brilliant way to inspire loyalty.
Ladies and gentlemen, I understand that it hasn’t been a hundred years since the first KLM house was presented.
But it was precisely one hundred years ago today that Albert Plesman signed the articles of incorporation at the office of notary H. Stoop in The Hague, establishing the ‘Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en Koloniën’: the ‘Royal Airlines for the Netherlands and Colonies’.
With this step Plesman demonstrated boldness, forward-thinking and a pioneering spirit.
Flight was in its infancy, but he believed it was the future, and that the Netherlands should have its own airline.
This place, Schiphol, was no more than a boggy field back then.
But there was true confidence in the endeavour from the start. Queen Wilhelmina conferred the designation ‘Royal’ on KLM before a single aircraft had taken off.
Quite unique: I think it takes you a hundred years before you can even apply.
And the close involvement of the Royal House has continued over the past century – even in the cockpit.
The story of one of the greatest Dutch icons began on that October day in 1919.
KLM was founded in an era very different from our own.
It was a time when the first intercontinental flight – to what was then the Dutch East Indies – took several weeks and cost around 20,000 euros in today’s money.
KLM’s very first flight was on 17 May 1920, when pilot Jerry Shaw flew from London to Amsterdam.
With a pilot’s heart you might say that this was the airline’s true birthday.
Shaw made that flight in an open plane, accompanied by two journalists, and carrying a letter from the mayor and a stack of newspapers.
In that time, only an elite few could afford to fly.
In 1919, a passenger described what he saw during his journey.
And I quote: ‘Like a vast carpet, dotted with irregular patches and shapes, Waterland stretches out into the distance far beneath me (...) I can’t make out people anymore; the countless white dots (...) must be cattle.
The ditches are like the cracks in floorboards, the canals are gleaming ribbons, the lakes black-stained blotches, for which I can’t think of an appropriate metaphor.’
In 1950, KLM started to grow explosively.
The numbers speak for themselves: in 1950 the airline carried 365,000 passengers and by 1980 that number was nearly 10 million.
Flying was becoming accessible to more and more people.
And of course it helped that planes were becoming bigger and faster.
KLM’s development perfectly symbolises the development of the Netherlands in the last century.
A century marked by growing prosperity and equality.
A century in which more and more people gained access to the same opportunities.
And a return ticket was affordable for everyone, not just the happy few.
Now we are here to celebrate KLM’s centenary.
With its fleet of 214 aircraft, KLM flies all over the world: to Aruba, Iceland, New York and Dubai.
More than 33,000 employees proudly wear the airline’s iconic blue.
In some families, multiple generations have worked for KLM – grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandmothers, mothers and daughters.
And even though flying is no longer the unique experience it was in 1919, it still feels magical, somehow.
Ladies and gentlemen, the past year has also been a turbulent one in KLM’s history.
And the unorthodox step by the Dutch government almost certainly amplified the turbulence.
I did what I did because the Netherlands – a small country with a very open economy – depends on its connectivity to the rest of the world.
So, Schiphol’s function as a hub is crucial to us.
The same goes for Air France-KLM and KLM.
That’s why we are working hard to further shape our role as shareholder in close consultation with the French state and the company.
The aim is for both countries to return to playing a background role, in full equality, as I believe they should, in the not-too-distant future.
Then Air France-KLM can continue to pursue its worthy goal of becoming the best airline in Europe.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world isn’t the same as it was a hundred years ago.
But for a hundred years, KLM has been a constant.
The pioneering spirit of Plesman and his partners lives on.
Forward-looking and focus on the long term: it is probably a source of inspiration to all of us.
So, KLM, I congratulate you on your one hundredth birthday. You’re the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name.
Here’s to many more years of boldness, vision and blue-and-white in the sky.