Why Is KLM’s Miami Flight So Unreliable?

Why Is KLM’s Miami Flight So Unreliable?

45

At the moment, KLM seems to be struggling with operating its Amsterdam to Miami route reliably, and I blame Nigeria. Is this just a streak of bad luck, or what is going on?

KLM cancels three out of eight Miami flights

KLM is currently operating a seasonal 3x weekly flight between Amsterdam and Miami, using an Airbus A330. Ford was supposed to take this flight today (eastbound), and unfortunately this morning he received a message that the flight was canceled, as the plane never even left Amsterdam. Okay, the airline industry is complex, and airlines can’t always operate their network perfectly.

But the last scheduled flight, on February 11, was also canceled. The five previous flights operated fairly reliably, though the January 28 flight was canceled as well. That means of the last eight flights, three were canceled — a 38% cancelation rate across eight services isn’t exactly great, especially for a global network carrier, and when there were no major weather events.

Unfortunately this cancelation throws a wrench in our plans, but of course I never rely on any single flight to operate according to schedule, and left a buffer before our non-refundable plans at our destination.

KLM isn’t operating Miami flights reliably

Why does KLM keep canceling Miami flights?

Here’s what confuses me about the consistent cancelations of these flights.

Like any good aviation geek, I always try to track inbound aircraft to figure out the odds of there being operational disruptions. As you might expect, I was tracking this especially closely, given the two recent cancelations, including one just two days ago. I figured that surely KLM wouldn’t cancel two back-to-back flights on the same route, but I was proven wrong!

Ford was supposed to fly from Miami to Amsterdam, and of course that aircraft arrives from Amsterdam, since the plane just turns in Miami. Using Flightradar24, I saw that the aircraft scheduled to operate the route had the registration code PH-AKF.

That plane landed in Amsterdam early this morning from Lagos, as scheduled, so I assumed that was a good sign. But nope, the flight was still canceled. Okay, surely there must have been a maintenance issue? Well, no, that’s not the explanation either, because the aircraft ended up departing to Sint Maarten around the same time that the Miami flight was scheduled to depart.

Exactly the same was true for the two previous cancelations in recent weeks:

  • On February 11, PH-AKA was scheduled to operate the flight; it also arrived from Lagos, then the Miami flight was canceled, and then the plane ended up flying to Atlanta, with a departure prior to the Miami flight
  • On January 28, PH-AKD was scheduled to operate the flight; it arrived from (you guessed it!) Lagos, then the Miami flight was canceled, and then the plane ended up flying to Aruba, with a departure just shortly after the Miami flight

Okay, this gets wilder, and I suspect this is sort of how conspiracy theories start, but it’s true. Over the course of the last eight flights:

  • Every time the flight was canceled, the aircraft was coming from Lagos
  • Every time the flight operated, the aircraft wasn’t coming from Lagos

Would anyone like to try to make sense of that? Obviously these Miami cancelations aren’t about maintenance, since the planes still fly. The only logical theory I can come up with is that the flights are canceled for commercial reasons, because they’re not very busy.

Maybe Air France-KLM look at the collective availability on the 3x weekly Amsterdam flight and 2x daily Paris flight, and then cancel the Amsterdam flight when there’s enough room to accommodate people on the Paris flights? For what it’s worth, on today’s flight business class was full, though I’m not sure about economy.

The real question here is how Lagos fits into all of this. Why does the flight keep getting canceled when it comes from Lagos, while it doesn’t get canceled when coming from other destinations?

Are Air France & KLM just consolidating Miami flights, or…?

Bottom line

KLM has now canceled three of its last eight flights to Miami. In each case, this doesn’t appear to be due to maintenance issues, as the aircraft scheduled to operate the route still flew elsewhere. For whatever reason, the flights keep getting canceled when the aircraft is coming from Lagos, while they operate when the aircraft isn’t coming from Lagos. This one is a real head-scratcher…

What’s your take on this KLM Miami flight situation?

Conversations (45)
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  1. Mike Guest

    Isn’t it much simpler? Whenever they have a problem in the fleet, they cancel the flight where they have rebook options. Miami, Washington etc are much easier to accommodate passengers on other flights, whereas Sint Maarten for instance, the rebook options are much more limited. So they cancel the one where they have rebook options.

  2. Roger Guest

    Living in Europe and doing substantial flying on KL/AFi I can tell you the Nigeria link is not there. KLM is in a lot of trouble since Corona stopped. And during of course but that is not limited to KLM only.

    The Netherlands is seeing a huge shortage of staff in virtually every kind of business and so does KL. hurt by shortage of Pilots, CA, technicians and probably also spare parts like others.

    But...

    Living in Europe and doing substantial flying on KL/AFi I can tell you the Nigeria link is not there. KLM is in a lot of trouble since Corona stopped. And during of course but that is not limited to KLM only.

    The Netherlands is seeing a huge shortage of staff in virtually every kind of business and so does KL. hurt by shortage of Pilots, CA, technicians and probably also spare parts like others.

    But the first 3 are the ones to cause all the delays and cancellations and management even admits so.

    The annoying part is that if there is a little wind, snow or rain they will use it to cancel tons of flights since this creates space in the network - and not paying compensation- but leaves the passengers stranded. You are (kind of) on your own. So everyone knows but what can you do?

    Some readers mention it’s a calculated risk for some incidents but if flights are not economically viable then they rather pay and reroute you. If that’s happens once in a while I believe all understand.

    For me, it totally annoys me that they steal so much of my time because they turn a KL problem into a pax problem and it cost you time, effort and above all irritation.

    If it happens once, that’s life. Twice an incident but I got 7 times lost liggage
    In last 12 months, at least 5 flights cancelled not mentioning the numerous delays because no tow truck drivers available for push back….

    NL and Schiphol together with KLM have become an international disgrace and unfortunately with the radicals in the government and the way they want to go I foresee no future whatsoever.
    All that was built by people with a vision and the hard working mentality of the Dutch has been replaced by leftist & woke behavior believing f.e. That killing this industry will benefit the environment of the world…..meanwhile the rest around us are laughing their heads of and gladly accommodate these passengers across the border.

    Sad but they will only wake up when all too late and all destroyed.

    Bottom line, we all know that disruptions are possible in the complicated world of aviation but by avoiding KLM and Ams you do reduce a substantial amount of these incidents by choice only.

    1. Samo Guest

      "You are (kind of) on your own." - This is not correct. You are not eligible for a compensation in case of a weather delay, but the duty of care still applies. Your conspiracy theory therefore falls apart at the very beggining. If AFKL cancels a flight they don't need to cancel, they will have hundreds of people stuck in Amsterdam/Paris, they will need to pay for their accomodation and food and then they'll have...

      "You are (kind of) on your own." - This is not correct. You are not eligible for a compensation in case of a weather delay, but the duty of care still applies. Your conspiracy theory therefore falls apart at the very beggining. If AFKL cancels a flight they don't need to cancel, they will have hundreds of people stuck in Amsterdam/Paris, they will need to pay for their accomodation and food and then they'll have to find an empty seat for them the next day when other flights may be busy (which means either even bigger bill for accomodation, or paying for rerouting on other carriers). This is a clear loss, there is nothing to gain.

      In fact, this is exactly the reason why MIA flight is unreliable, just not in the way you suggested. MIA is unreliable because cancelling it doesn't cost AFKL much - they can easily rebook those pax on dozens of other flights that will get them there on time, or just slightly late. But they deseratley need to avoid cancelling Carribean flights where rebooking is close to impossible, especially if most pax can't transfer in the US. Thus, CUR will always take precedent over MIA.

      This is the beauty of European passenger rights legislation. It pushes airlines to do what's good for customer, because inconveniencing customer equals steep cost for the airlines.

  3. Vincent de la Fuente Guest

    I was supposed on that flight. The cancelled it by email at 00:37, departure was planned at 10:25. They booked me with the same departure time to Heathrow Londen with a lay over of 5 hours. Then Virgin Atlantic to Miami. Perfect airline, much better than KLM! Travelled business so we spend some time in Virgin's Clubhouse.
    The good thing about the cancellation is the refund of 1200 euro cash i claimed and flying with Virgin Atlantic in stead of KLM.

  4. Simon De Rudder Guest

    According to KLM's own flight status page, those flights are being canceled for technical reasons, in their words: "This flight has been cancelled because of a technical reason." Without exception this is the reasoning they give.

  5. David Arnett Guest

    The 9:25PM flight out of JFK was cancelled on November 11th, 12th, and 13th despite different planes being assigned the route. Yes, this is the latest KLM flight with 2 or 3 departing everyday before it but 3 cancellations in a row is strange.

  6. CJD Guest

    I suspect this flight mainly exists to support the flower export/cargo market. Miami is the largest flower import markets in US. If KLM has to choose between a few passengers and flowers going to Miami or a flight full of revenue passengers going to SXM, the SXM flight will win. might be an interesting research project/future blog post.

  7. Phil Guest

    Just adding that the Sin Marten and Aruba flights are afaik subsidized by the government of the Netherlands - so they might have more incentive (beside the operational woes of cancelling these flights) to prefer these.

    1. Samo Guest

      It's not just that. Rerouting pax to Dutch Carribbean is a nightmare since you generally need to send an extra plane. There's very low capacity on other carriers and many pax can't transfer via US which makes the options even more limited.

  8. AdrienH Guest

    I don’t know if there is a link with Nigeria but the Miami connection has historically always been an issue for KLM. I think they just don’t manage to fill that plane? Already back in time, 20+ years ago, they let Martinair operate that route and often cancelled?

  9. Samo Guest

    MIA is simply not a priority for AFKL so they choose to cancel this rotation whenever they don't have enough planes for the westbound bank of flights.

    Cancelling MIA isn't a big deal, it's not a business-heavy (or anything-heavy to be honest) route and there's a lot of alternatives to rebook pax on. On the other hand, if they were to cancel Curacao or Aruba, that's gonna generate a lot of headache and even more...

    MIA is simply not a priority for AFKL so they choose to cancel this rotation whenever they don't have enough planes for the westbound bank of flights.

    Cancelling MIA isn't a big deal, it's not a business-heavy (or anything-heavy to be honest) route and there's a lot of alternatives to rebook pax on. On the other hand, if they were to cancel Curacao or Aruba, that's gonna generate a lot of headache and even more duty of care cost, since alternatives are almost non-existent and very complicated (especially since many pax won't have ESTA on these essentially domestic flights and thus won't be able to be rerouted via the US).

    Looking at what routes they send the planes originally scheduled for MIA instead makes the reason pretty obvious.

  10. Trey Guest

    The Nigerian Prince strikes again!

  11. JJohn Guest

    Ben, why didn’t you cover the Aluminati angle? You know, just to make sure you’ve explored all logical options.

  12. W Gold

    My theory is that when mechanical issues force planes out of service (even if on other routes), they just cancel the MIA flight and use that aircraft on the other service.

    Miami isn't a premium or focus destination for KLM. It's only served during the winter (unlike most transatlantic routes, especially out of a city as big as Miami), and it's only 3x weekly. Presumably, they only fly it because they have spare aircraft....

    My theory is that when mechanical issues force planes out of service (even if on other routes), they just cancel the MIA flight and use that aircraft on the other service.

    Miami isn't a premium or focus destination for KLM. It's only served during the winter (unlike most transatlantic routes, especially out of a city as big as Miami), and it's only 3x weekly. Presumably, they only fly it because they have spare aircraft. However, when another aircraft goes out of service, they just use the one assigned to MIA. Otherwise, Air France has 2x daily flights (as others have noted), or they could just fly the pax to ATL or JFK (or any Delta hub) and rebook them on DL to MIA. This isn't that easy for KLM's other destinations.

    About 3 years ago, I lived in Atlanta and I remember KLM's daily flight was often cancelled during certain weeks. It was newly operated by a 787-10 at the time. I assume that was the same reason as this, as pax can be rebooked on many flights on Delta.

    1. Albert Guest

      I expect this is it.
      MIA is the first destination to be cancelled due to low importance.
      And flights to LOS (where the maintenance is not the best) are the most likely to cause a maintenance problem.
      That the actual airframe scheduled to LOS is the one also scheduled to MIA is then a way of minimising the overall disruption.

  13. Sr Guest

    Hi I work for Nigerian government as politician. This issue is quite simple. Our president one time went to Miami for spring break and he was not pleased with his experience. He issued a decree that all flights from the state of Nigeria shall not continue onto Miami. Sometimes passengers will be placed in the cargo compartment and then are forgotten upon arrival in Amsterdam, and he wanted to ensure that they will not continue onto Miami. Hope this clears things up.

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      @SR - you joke, but that is actually the case with Chicago, not Miami. President Tinubu consented to a $460,000 civil forfeiture of funds suspected to be the proceeds of drug trafficking in 1993 under an order by the United State District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

      https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/04/alleged-drug-case-why-tinubu-forfeited-460000-in-us-apc-tells-court/

      https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/09/tinubus-us-drug-dealing-forfeiture-not-criminal-indictment-tribunal/

      @SR - you joke, but that is actually the case with Chicago, not Miami. President Tinubu consented to a $460,000 civil forfeiture of funds suspected to be the proceeds of drug trafficking in 1993 under an order by the United State District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

      https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/04/alleged-drug-case-why-tinubu-forfeited-460000-in-us-apc-tells-court/

      https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/09/tinubus-us-drug-dealing-forfeiture-not-criminal-indictment-tribunal/

  14. Mick Guest

    As noted elsewhere causation and correlation. The plane could just happen to come from Lagos on the days that Miami has the smallest load for example?

    I’m guessing you’re connecting to air Kenya to Nairobi. Or I hope so. My wife and I had a lovely flight on them in 2018. Ord to ams on klm then air Kenya to Nairobi. Great food. Old school biz seats with huge leg room (and little privacy). Got...

    As noted elsewhere causation and correlation. The plane could just happen to come from Lagos on the days that Miami has the smallest load for example?

    I’m guessing you’re connecting to air Kenya to Nairobi. Or I hope so. My wife and I had a lovely flight on them in 2018. Ord to ams on klm then air Kenya to Nairobi. Great food. Old school biz seats with huge leg room (and little privacy). Got amazing sleep.

    But then again my guess is based on being swayed by own experience rather than evidence :)

    1. Optimist Guest

      Presumably you mean Kenya Airlines, rather than Air Kenya? They are not the same…

  15. Jordan Diamond

    Well, this is very interesting.

    I do wonder what is going on? Especially since this is not a daily flight. We do see a lot of cancelations out of Europe during the winter months, but usually to places like JFK where there are multiple daily flights....or is this built in. They sell the service, but know there are cancelations.

    It would be interesting to see where the planes scheduled for the alternative cities went.

    ...

    Well, this is very interesting.

    I do wonder what is going on? Especially since this is not a daily flight. We do see a lot of cancelations out of Europe during the winter months, but usually to places like JFK where there are multiple daily flights....or is this built in. They sell the service, but know there are cancelations.

    It would be interesting to see where the planes scheduled for the alternative cities went.

    Not a great look to accuse Nigeria of being responsible, even as a joke. Now if something was taking place in LOS to make the flight non-op out of AMS, then you would be on to something. Otherwise, prepare for comments.

  16. jith Guest

    There seems to be an internal list of low-priority destinations that KL/AF is willing to send older jets to (see the last two NEV4 AF 77Ws F-GSQD and F-GSQE that have not been retrofitted). These appear to be sent regularly to certain African destinations like Lagos, Dakar, and Kinshasa, also NA destinations Boston, Montreal, Miami, and finally some smattering of Asian destinations too.

    Maybe they are gambling on lesser customer complaints from inferior and...

    There seems to be an internal list of low-priority destinations that KL/AF is willing to send older jets to (see the last two NEV4 AF 77Ws F-GSQD and F-GSQE that have not been retrofitted). These appear to be sent regularly to certain African destinations like Lagos, Dakar, and Kinshasa, also NA destinations Boston, Montreal, Miami, and finally some smattering of Asian destinations too.

    Maybe they are gambling on lesser customer complaints from inferior and dated hard products from these outstations, and because these are older jets assigned to these routes, they are more prone to cancel due to MX/unprofitability?

  17. Quinten Guest

    I was supposed to fly AMS-MIA last Sunday on KL627. The cancellation email said it was cancelled due to mechanical issues. Got rerouted on AF.

  18. Jayce Guest

    FWIW, I never see any flying blue award flights starting out of MIA on KLM. Tons of AF, never klm

  19. John G Guest

    @Ben

    How is this a bad thing ? Won't they rebook him on the AF flight ? Far better hard product than KLM A330.

  20. fallcynet Guest

    Lagos may not have anything to do it. It could be a case of high correlation and not causation - that is, flights from Lagos on those days correlate to the real reason that the Miami flights get canceled.

  21. Ken Guest

    Lol Lucky wait till a Nigerian media picks this up, they may accuse you of lots of things

  22. Chris Guest

    Seems like a good time for a lesson in causation and correlation.

    1. AD Diamond

      you took the words out of my mouth...

  23. Parnel Member

    Lol just a normal day for Canadians flying Air Canada, they have the worst on time performance in North America .
    I guess KLM just puts the passengers on a flight to Paris.

  24. Anon Guest

    For what it's worth, their IAD flight (also operated by A330 aircraft) tends to have quite a few cancellations in winter (granted, it's operating 6x weekly, not 3x) as well. I suspect KL gives a little less love to their non-SkyTeam NA destinations in winter season and re-deploys the plane where needed based on maintenance or crew issues with the understanding that any affected passengers can be (likely easily) rebooked on either of AF's two...

    For what it's worth, their IAD flight (also operated by A330 aircraft) tends to have quite a few cancellations in winter (granted, it's operating 6x weekly, not 3x) as well. I suspect KL gives a little less love to their non-SkyTeam NA destinations in winter season and re-deploys the plane where needed based on maintenance or crew issues with the understanding that any affected passengers can be (likely easily) rebooked on either of AF's two daily flights (for both IAD and MIA). Unfortunate because it gives the impression of a poorly run operation to non-AvGeeks, when KL is usually known for its reliability in my opinion. Though the past few years have definitely seen some struggle (then again, who hasn't).

  25. D3kingg Guest

    Ben flew KLM. I bet 5 to 1 he was going to fly Delta MIA AMS.

  26. Hillshum Guest

    Is some other plane on a route more crucial to KLM's network having mechanical issues and then the plane assigned to Miami getting reassigned because the Miami flight is considered less important?

  27. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    ......and Lucky was never heard from again.

  28. Zac Guest

    Once is an accident
    Twice is a coincidence
    Third = Illuminati confirmed

  29. Ben Guest

    Wel do the math -- EU261 Compensation EQUALS (# of PAX TIMES $650) == CANCEL! OR FLY!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ben -- Hah, I used to think this was a major factor for European airlines, but I get the sense that not many people actually know to request this, and they end up paying that to just a small fraction of passengers. On top of that, you have passengers connecting to outside the EU, plus those accommodated on other flights that arrive at their final destination within four hours.

    2. Optimist Guest

      They are crafty at finding ways of avoiding compensation payments. I had family on an IAD - AMS flight that was cancelled, but KLM were happy to reroute them via Togo (Lome) AND Gabon (Libreville) on some combination of Ethiopian Airlines and some tiny West African carrier to minimise their compensation obligations because of the corridor around bringing forward departures and delaying final arrival.

  30. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    I had the same issues in early December with KL623 ATL-AMS-XXX where the AMS-ATL inbound for our outbound was cancelled 4 days in a row. Ended up moving to a more reliable AF flight.

  31. Jason Guest

    I dont think Lagos has anything to do about it.

    How did they propose reaccommodating Ford? Did they propose a solution?

    Probably just lightly booked flights and they were able to re-accommodate pax easily.

  32. Mark Guest

    I think it’s a coincidence with Lagos. I feel it’s a commercial decision, but not because of light loads. My guess is that it’s a crew positioning issue where there isn’t a legal crew in MIA to fly the plane back to AMS and so they cancel the flight entirely.

    It could be poor crew scheduling on AF’s part to not deadhead a new crew since the one presumably in MIA timed out with the...

    I think it’s a coincidence with Lagos. I feel it’s a commercial decision, but not because of light loads. My guess is that it’s a crew positioning issue where there isn’t a legal crew in MIA to fly the plane back to AMS and so they cancel the flight entirely.

    It could be poor crew scheduling on AF’s part to not deadhead a new crew since the one presumably in MIA timed out with the last cancellation. These less-than-daily flights can compound issues quickly if the operations and crew planning teams aren’t in sync.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Mark -- Sorry, maybe I wasn't clear, or maybe I'm not understanding what you're saying. But with both the February 11 and February 13 MIA-AMS flights being canceled, wouldn't there be an extra KLM crew sitting in Miami, waiting to return?

    2. Mark Guest

      There would be but it depends on the work rules for their maximum time on a trip. Most contracts don’t allow for unlimited time sitting in a hotel, so presumably the crew would not be able to fly a plane after X amount of days away from home (even though a hotel room to yourself is probably more restful than a crashpad). Others here are more familiar with the US side of the rules than myself and can correct me if I’m wrong here.

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      @Mark - You are absolutely correct. EASA regulations would require a 36 hour rest period (with 2 local nights) in a 7 day period, so counterintuitively a crewmember could be legal to fly today but not legal to fly tomorrow with additional rest depending on their duties in the preceding 6 days.

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Sean M. Diamond

@SR - you joke, but that is actually the case with Chicago, not Miami. President Tinubu consented to a $460,000 civil forfeiture of funds suspected to be the proceeds of drug trafficking in 1993 under an order by the United State District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/04/alleged-drug-case-why-tinubu-forfeited-460000-in-us-apc-tells-court/ https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/09/tinubus-us-drug-dealing-forfeiture-not-criminal-indictment-tribunal/

2
Chris Guest

Seems like a good time for a lesson in causation and correlation.

2
Sean M. Diamond

@Mark - You are absolutely correct. EASA regulations would require a 36 hour rest period (with 2 local nights) in a 7 day period, so counterintuitively a crewmember could be legal to fly today but not legal to fly tomorrow with additional rest depending on their duties in the preceding 6 days.

1
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