Surprised With KLM Asking You To Fly Responsibly

17 Jul,2019


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Seriously, someone has to be quirky and disruptive sounding with a ‘Fly Responsibly – Take a Train’ to catch attention.

We live in an era where brands are being forced to demonstrate their commitment to a purpose. Look at #ToxicMasculinity, #ShareTheLoad,  Jago Grahak, #OrgasmInEquality. All of these are bold and in some way disruptive. Some of them are justified but many of them questionable in their focus and commitment.

The information has been democratised. Marketing a bit deglamourised can no longer hide behind vanilla promises and functionality.

Many categories uniquely fulfilling some need of consumers are now finding out that they are harmful to the whole ecosystem. They are doing more wrong than right. And the consumer expects them to f*$%king take responsibility for it.  As none of these are illegal, the companies want to continue doing business.


Airline Industry Has To Fly Responsibly.

The airline industry is one such case. High-flying climate ambassador has questioned its carbon emission impact from 32,000 feet and above. Carbon emission will continue to rise until sustainable fuel usage takes off. Currently, airlines account for some 2.5% of global emission.


The Airlines Can Fly Responsibly.

The possibilities exist, and many airlines are making some progress in the area. Airlines can shift to more green or sustainable fuel and even commission Hybrid planes. The airline can work on rationalising route, fleet and size. The seat configuration between first, business and economy class can be reworked. Maybe they can start charging people by weight.


KLM Point Of View.

KLM has been working on the service part of the ecosystem. KLM realises that working only on the airline side of the ecosystem is never going to be sufficient to address or make a sizeable contribution to the cause. Hence, to make it more effective, the airline wants to involve the demand side of the ecosystem, the customers the flyers.

Till the option of flying cheaper faster to a destination for business or pleasure remains available, people are going to opt for it.

KLM wants to nudge the passengers (the demand side of the ecosystem) to help make a positive contribution. This thinking is the foundation of the campaign FLY RESPONSIBLY. Here is the quote from the KLM website. “Fly Responsibly is KLM’s commitment to taking a leading role in creating a more sustainable future for aviation. With the introduction of Fly Responsibly, we’re making the world aware of our shared responsibility. We can only succeed if we work together, so join us today for a more sustainable tomorrow.” And it is already one of the world’s more fuel-efficient airliners.


How To Fly Responsibly the KLM way.  

The airline wants the flyer to consider other travel options, like a train. It gives an example that flying from Amsterdam to Brussels takes longer than going by train. Maybe it wants to get out of uneconomical shorter routes!


KLM ask the flyer to evaluate if the travel is really needed.  Or one could use the various technology tools like Skype and web-links etc. to conduct the business. It is nothing new; many of companies have already adopted this system of doing business.

KLM wants a flyer to pack light to help burn less fuel.

It wants the flyer to voluntarily pay to offset their travel carbon footprint. The cost of carbon print offset is around 1 to 1.5% of the total cost of travel. However, when flyer opts for CO2ZERO service of KLM, he or she contributes to the ‘CO2OL Tropical Mix’ reforestation initiative in Panama where so far at least 3,5 million trees have been planted.

These are small steps. The airline hopes these suggestions will nudge the customers to mould their behaviour.


No One Wants To Take The Harder Route.

KLM could have been the first one to charge passengers by the weight. So if a passenger is above a certain weight (just like baggage allowance), they have to pay extra.  In the process, forcing some frequent flyers to reduce weight and be health conscious.  Or it could have promoted healthy ways by giving a discount to lighter people.

It could have increased the extra baggage rates exponentially, thus nudging passengers to pack light.

It could have stopped services between the towns where other modes of travel are faster and equally comfortable & convenient.

It could start charging rather than asking flyers to voluntarily opt for CO2 footprint offsetting.

Thus, the airline could have forced the consumer to think again.

We all know it is impossible for a single airline to do so. It will be priced out of the market. However, the Government can bring in laws and policies equally impacting all airlines.


Is KLM Serious About Your Not Taking The Flight?

Yes, I believe it is. This communication is not like the fake COKE or the ‘Stop eating Tide Pods’ communication. It is not even like the ‘HT NO TV DAY’, where a newspaper was asking people to have a no-TV day.

It’s the airline wanting you to just fly responsibly.

Before you raise your eyebrow, they have no intention to stop flying.

The airline tells you “It is our business and we want to stay in business… We are stepping up to speed up progress towards a sustainable future, but we are a company that needs to make a profit to survive and to continue to invest in sustainable solutions. We want to still be around when we have succeeded in our efforts to make aviation sustainable.” And it tells you in, FLYING RESPONSIBLY is a two-way street, we the airline and the flyer both are equally responsible.


A Good Gimmick Or A Responsible Act.

Frankly, in spite of all the explanation in the website and umpteen videos available on YouTube, for some reason, KLM ‘Fly Responsibly’ looks gimmicky. Maybe it is the distrust in such campaign that makes me think so. I think we will have to wait and watch how the campaign develops and what further steps the airlines take to engage, involve and nudge the passengers.

The airline has definitely taken the lead.  It seems to be ahead of possible politically and global regulations that may hit the industry sooner than later. Being the more fuel-efficient airline with experience with sustainable fuel is Fly Responsible a great PR lobby idea to push the Government to impose a Carbon Footprint Offset tax or cess, it will benefit KLM.

FLY RESPONSIBLY has helped KLM garner a thought share. Whatever may be the reason, I do hope it succeeds in its attempt to nudge the consumer. Every step counts.


Meanwhile, I don’t think it is going to make anyone of us shift from Delhi-Mumbai flights to Rajdhani or Mumbai-Nagpur to Duranto. We are an equality-operated economy. The airports and air-travel are as uncomfortable and inconvenient as the train. Hence if AIR-INDIA or INDIGO or VISTARA will talk Fly Responsibly, it could only hint for the flyers to behave appropriately, stand in the queue, don’t should and fight, follow instructions.

I will leave you with this DON’T EAT TIDE PODS message, just for fun. Very impressive, very purposeful.


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