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Aviation: KLM bids farewell to Southampton

In late March 2016, KLM Cityhopper introduced an additional UK destination to its route portfolio, and its only destination in the UK to the south of London. Southampton Airport (SOU) was chosen thanks to its surface connections to London and the south of England, to gain a customer base in the region, and to provide an alternative to London Heathrow or City.

KLM used the Fokker 70 on services to Southampton between March 2016 and October 2017. (Author)

Routes between the UK and Amsterdam have proven to be very popular with business, millennial and holiday travellers. As well supporting point-to-point traffic, the services offer connections into KLM's extensive long haul network to North America, South America, Asia and Africa. The Southampton link also gave south coast locals the option to avoid a tedious 90 minute drive to London Heathrow, or an unforgiving three hour journey to either London Luton, London Gatwick or even Bristol Airport.

Unfortunately though, the link between Southampton and Amsterdam Schiphol has fallen foul of the current economic downturn. I messaged KLM on Social Media regarding their decision to cull a route I've used plenty of times:

"For commercial reasons and the financial outlook of the route, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has decided to suspend its direct flights between Southampton and Amsterdam for the Summer 2019 schedule. Also in the light of Schiphol’s slot restrictions, KLM is forced to further optimize its portfolio of destinations. The last flight will take off from Southampton on 30 March 2019. Passengers from Southampton to Amsterdam and vice versa will be rebooked on alternative flights."

Whilst travellers in Southampton and surrounding areas can still get a direct service to Amsterdam on Flybe's bright purple Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s, it looks like that KLM is placing its focus elsewhere. Operating from Schiphol Airport, one of four slot-constrained 'mega hubs' in Europe, it is perhaps understandable that KLM decided to suspend a low income or even loss making short haul 'Cityhopper' route. It will probably be replaced with a more promising long-haul service, especially as there are booms in travel to China and other newly industrialised countries.

Embraer 170s replaced the F70s last autumn. (Author)

KLM launched the Southampton service using 80 seat Fokker F70 aircraft. These gave way to slightly larger 88-seat Embraer E-175s in Autumn 2017, which coincided with the retirement of the last last Fokkers on October 27. A 100-seat Embraer E-190 flew the route on at least one occasion; PH-EZX, carrying unmistakable Skyteam alliance markings, visited SOU on August 26, 2016.

I travelled the five the route times in 2016 and 2017 simply to get a Fokker 70 flight. They are flights I won't forget anytime - I had trips on Fokker F70s PH-KZE, PH-KZK (twice), PH-KZM and PH-KZL.

I've not used the service since the Fokkers retired, but maybe the Embraers were just too big to make the route profitable? If so it's a shame as the F70s were always full when I flew.

Text and photos © Tyler McDowell

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