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KLM Celebrates 75 Years: Linking Canada & the Netherlands

KLM This year marks the 75th anniversary of Royal Dutch Airlines' first trip from Amsterdam to Montreal.

The first passenger was welcomed by a KLM crew on May 29, 1949, aboard a Lockheed Constellation 749 registered as PH-TDB and christened "Batavia." It marked the beginning of business relations between Canada and the European continent.

It took little over 20 hours to complete the Amsterdam-Montreal route, which included refueling stops at Prestwick and Gander. After making a maintenance stoppage in Havana, the aircraft resumed its journey from Montreal to Curaçao, an island in the Dutch West Indies.

Fifty of the 400 pilots on KLM at the time were Canadians. Ontario was home to two of the pilots on the first flight: Richard John Rose, age 26, and William Lesauvage, age 37.

The Ritz Carlton, the Windsor Hotel, and Montreal City Hall all hosted honorary receptions. The Dutch visitors highlighted in their speeches the special relationship that has existed between the Netherlands and Canada since 1945 and conveyed their appreciation to the Canadian government and military for having welcomed the royal family to Ottawa and helping to liberate the Netherlands during World War II.

According to Jean-Eudes de La Bretèche, GM of Air France KLM Canada, "The introduction of this service between Montreal and Amsterdam paved the way for KLM's presence in Canada and contributed to strengthening diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries."

Canada has been a significant part of KLM's history and network for 75 years.

"We are proud to have continued this expansion, operating up to 39 weekly flights to our 5 Canadian destinations this summer: Montreal (7), Toronto (14), Vancouver (7), Calgary (7), and Edmonton (4)."

The airline said that KLM had already landed planes at Dorval, carrying Dutch families, prior to the start of the Amsterdam-Montreal route.

"Chartered flights had been organized to allow these families to immigrate and start a new life in Canada, especially in Ontario and the western provinces."

Known for being the oldest airline in the world, KLM stated that throughout the course of the last 100+ years, it has worked to make personal travel experiences more meaningful, "whether it's an upgrade, a roomier seat, onboard service, or the attentive care of the crew."

KLM introduced a new platform earlier this year in response to rising travel demand and Canadians' need for deeper travel experiences.

According to the airline, "Travel Well" seeks to empower and facilitate travelers to forge deeper connections at every stop along the way.

This year, KLM also announced a multi-year agreement to become the official international airline of the Toronto Football Club (TFC).

"This collaboration marks a significant step forward in KLM's commitment to Ontario," the airline said in a news release commemorating its 50 years in Toronto.

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