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KLM is taking the train more often


KLM is increasingly betting on the international train as a sustainable alternative for short flights connecting to longer, intercontinental flights.

Our approach

With innovative, deep-dive research, Beautiful Lives followed the participants in a KLM and Thalys flight-train pilot closely. In this way, we mapped the entire customer journey.

KLM is increasingly betting on the international train as a sustainable alternative for short flights connecting to longer, intercontinental flights. We followed the participants of a KLM and Thalys flight-train pilot closely, charting the entire customer journey for KLM in the moment. Hans Zijlstra of Air France-KLM is happy with the insights provided by the research.

The issue

In the summer of 2022, KLM and Thalys held a pilot on the Brussels-Amsterdam route. Passengers with a connection to Schiphol used a so-called air-train ticket for their journey to or from Brussels. Beautiful Lives was asked to map the experiences of passengers during the pilot.

Hans Zijlstra, Directeur Customer & Market Insight at Air France-KLM: “Sustainability is an important theme for KLM. As part of that, we are looking at replacing short flights within Europe with train travel for passengers transferring at Schiphol to or from the rest of the world. In doing so, we naturally want to be able to offer passengers the same standard of service as on our flights. Only then will passengers see travelling by train as an attractive alternative.”

Our approach

With a combination of WhatsApp, individual interviews and observations, we can map the entire customer journey in the moment for clients in every possible industry. The KLM research involved travelers from all over the world. With the help of Miles Research‘s WhatsApp Only expertise, they were able to share their experiences with us instantly and easily throughout the whole journey. We also conduct on-site observations and with 18 passengers we also went through the entire trip step by step.

Hans:”A good understanding of motivations and backgrounds, and real experiences of clients, recorded from their own mouths, are crucial to getting the client’s interests across. Beautiful Lives made it possible for clients to share their travel experiences with us in real time and in a very easy way. That provides so much more insight.”

What insights did it give KLM?

By following the travelers closely, we discovered that the combination of air and rail travel has great potential, but that the travelers still encounter a number of important and unexpected obstacles.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that it is more about ‘info’ than ‘infra’. A good provision of information during the journey turned out to be most important for the traveler:

  • Transferring while traveling is far from smooth now. This causes the travelers considerable stress.
  • The information before and during the trip is insufficient. There is a great need for understandable information on tickets, during transfers and baggage handling.
  • There needs to be better guidance for passengers and better signage. At both Brussels Midi and Schiphol Airport, travelers found it difficult to find their way around.

Hans: “Beautiful Lives’ extensive and innovative customer research helped us find out where the bottlenecks still lie on such a route, and what we need to improve for the traveler. But we only found this out by involving the travelers themselves in various ways! Together with our partners, KLM is now working hard on the necessary improvements for a smooth customer journey.”


Our lecture at op MIE’23.

KLM en Beautiful Lives presented this case together at MIE’23. Did you miss our Top-10 session at MIE? You can watch our presentation here >>

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