The carrier will launch twice daily flights from 2 April onboard a Fokker 70 aircraft with business and economy cabins. The hour-long flight is the first international departure from Manston and will be used for on-going connections into the Americas, Asia and Africa.
“This step is consistent of our strategy to provide provincial departures and hope to develop what we have done in Norwich,” Henri Hourclade, general manager UK & Ireland at Air France/KLM told Travel Daily. “Kent is a key region with a good catchment area that is close to the airport and it is very strategically placed; we are very confident that the experience can work here.”
This ‘experience’ focuses on airports within an hour’s drive, hassle-free airports and cheaper airport parking, which has proved so popular at Norwich that it will soon boost its services to Schiphol to four times a day. Alongside its flights with AirFrance and codeshare with flybe KLM offers flights from more than 20 UK airports and it is the easy access and on-going destinations which have made services popular with both leisure and business sectors.
“Schipol is a familiar airport to British travellers and is a real asset for us as a hub airport,” said Hourclade. “The main challenge is to raise awareness that the product exists.”
Of its connecting flights Hourclade said North American routes, Dubai and Bangkok continue to be popular with Brits, while its Chinese and south east Asia (Kuala Lumpur, Philippines) routes are developing fast particularly as Heathrow fails to keep up with direct routes.
On the other hand, Hourclade said KLM has now placed Manston on the global map and is positive the connection will boost inbound tourism into Kent.
“Bristol and our points in Scotland have seen a boost in inbound tourism from our flights and Kent has lots to offer so there is potential there,” he added.