Holiday firms furious as KLM invests in tour operator plan


Dutch flag carrier KLM has taken a majority stake in Haarlem-based Airtrade, which specialises in buying airline tickets for the holiday sector, much to the fury of tour operators who say it is unfair competition.

KLM has worked together with Airtrade since 2015 and the company provides the technology allowing KLM clients to book hotels and cars via its website. Financial details were not disclosed.

‘We want to become a pace setting tour operator, not just in the Dutch market but potentially elsewhere as well,’ Harm Kreulen, KLM Nederland director told Travmagazine last week. The Telegraaf says the airline is planning to set up its own travel organisation under the name ‘KLM Holidays’.

Competitors such as Corendon and Sunweb have criticised the move, given that KLM has been given billions of euros in support from the Dutch state, and is in talks on further financing.

‘KLM has had billions of state support to survive coronavirus. But we want to know if it can use that money to compete with us,’ Corendon director Steven van der Heijden told the Volkskrant.

The state support was to keep the international destination network at Schiphol airport intact, Van der Heijden said. ‘This has nothing to do with package tours.’

Kreulen told Travmagazine on Monday that the takeover is unconnected to the state support. ‘We have to invest to be ready when the market recovers,’ he said.

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