Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines today joined officials from Memphis, Shelby County and the state of Tennessee to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first nonstop flight between Memphis International and Amsterdam Schiphol airports.
Since its launch on June 27, 1995, more than 2 million customers have flown Tennessee’s sole nonstop flight to Europe, generating more than $2 billion in statewide economic impact.
"What started as a dream for a handful of Memphians has become a sustained economic boon for our region," said Arnold Perl, chairman, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. "Over the last 15 years, we have worked closely with Delta and KLM to create a successful flight between Memphis and Amsterdam. Despite major challenges, including 9/11, the SARS outbreak, global conflicts and the economic recession, these airlines stayed true to their commitments to Memphis and maintained our passenger link to Europe season after season, year after year."
KLM began four weekly flights between Memphis and Amsterdam in June 1995, in cooperation with its joint venture partner Northwest Airlines. One year later, as passenger demand rose, the airlines expanded flights to daily as part of the summer 1996 schedule. The service between the cities has operated on a daily basis each summer since.
Delta took over the service after it completed its merger with Northwest late last year. Delta and Air France-KLM operate a joint venture across the Atlantic which allows the airlines to share costs and revenues from each of their trans-Atlantic routes.
"No trans-Atlantic route in America better demonstrates the value of long-term relationships between airlines and the communities they serve than Memphis to Amsterdam," said Charlie Pappas, Delta’s managing director – Alliances. "Thanks to the support of community leaders, citizens and businesses, Memphis remains one of the only U.S. metropolitan areas with fewer than 1.5 million residents to enjoy year-round, unsubsidized nonstop service to Europe. We appreciate Memphis’ continued loyalty to Delta, and we look forward to continuing to serve as the flagship airline for this community."
Added Henk de Graauw, KLM’s director of Alliances: "When we launched service in 1995, Memphis, Shelby County and Tennessee officials hailed the route as the most coveted economic development opportunity in Memphis’ history. Fifteen years and billions in dollars of economic impact later, we’re proud that our investment here has paid off." It is estimated that the Memphis-Amsterdam route has generated more than $2 billion in economic impact over 15 years and supports approximately 26,000 annual foreign visits to Tennessee, in addition to the impact of jobs, export, imports and foreign investments enabled. "The economic and tourism ties between Tennessee and Europe are strong and have been growing stronger," said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. "Daily service between Memphis and Amsterdam is an important linchpin of that relationship and as we seek to expand those ties, Delta and KLM are important partners for Tennessee in that effort."
Added Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.: "The City of Memphis is a world-class city and the success of this daily trans-Atlantic service is a testament to the place we hold in the world’s tourism and business communities. Today’s celebration of 15 years of service is a reflection of our city’s continued international importance as America’s Aerotropolis."
"Fifteen years ago, I was one of the passengers on the inaugural fight to Amsterdam," said Shelby County Mayor Joe Ford. "The relationship between this trans-Atlantic service and Shelby County is a proven economic engine for job creation and a convenience for citizens and tourists who enjoy this daily flight that opens a gateway to the rest of the world."