Camiel Eurlings - CoolBrands Influencers Around the World

Meeting Camiel Eurlings at Schiphol Airport

The benefit of the benefit of flying KLM –

It’s early in the morning when the taxi drops us off at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It’s real Dutch weather today: grey and rainy with a chill in the air.

In two hours we are flying to Brazil, where we are going to make a reportage about the Atlantic rainforest.  After check-in, we have time for a coffee in the KLM business lounge. Just as we are about to settle on two chaises longues with our café lattes, we see Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s managing director, sitting at the reading table. We met Camiel last month during a KLM dialogue about sustainable aviation.

We go up to greet him and he tells us that he is on his way to Paris for a meeting with Air France. “Et nous allons au Brésil pour sauver la… rainforest,” I say in my best French. “La fôret vierge,” Camiel helps me.

“This is exactly what we were talking about last time: our core business is to fly you to Brazil, and we do that with maximum safety and comfort. But that is the basis, and it doesn’t allow KLM to distinguish itself from other airlines. It’s about purpose. What role does KLM play in the life of its customers? What is the benefit of the benefit?”

“The benefit of the benefit? Can you explain?” I ask.

“It’s simple: the benefit of flying KLM is that you arrive safely in Brazil. The benefit of the benefit is that you can do your work there, making your reportage about the rainforest. How can I, as KLM, help you with that reportage? I can fly you there, but I can also put you in touch with our network of frequent flyers who know Brazil. Our cabin crew can give you tips about local customs, and where to have a good meal in Rio. That is the benefit of the benefit of flying with us.”

“How can I help people do business in Hong Kong? By flying them there, making sure that they have a stress-free journey and arrive at their meeting rested. Flying them there is our business, enabling them to do business is our purpose.”

Camiel Eurlings - CoolBrands Influencers Around the World

“Sounds logical,” I say.

“The same goes for helping people get to know Maasai culture in Tanzania and climb Kilimanjaro. We don’t just drop them in Dar es Salam, but at the airport near Kilimanjaro – that way they are in fighting form when they start their trek.”

“Wow, I never realised that climbing Kilimanjaro was the benefit of the benefit of KLM,” I say with a smile.

“And while we’re there we can also make a positive contribution to the local economy. Cabin crew do volunteer work – by helping in orphanages or cooking for the homeless. Many of our flight personnel are members of Wings of Support and Pilots Without Borders.

“And as we are anyway flying there, we might as well collect clothing in the Netherlands for the orphanage. Flying there and then just going to lie by the pool is too superficial for many KLM employees. They also want a purpose, a role in society.

“Enabling people to play a role in society, to do business, discover destinations, meet other cultures and make a valuable contribution in the lives of others. That’s the benefit of the benefit of flying KLM.”

© CoolBrands 2012

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