With Virtual Flight Upgrader, KLM Brings Humor to VR Marketing


KLM VR flight upgrader

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ latest marketing campaign is using reverse psychology and virtual reality, teasing consumers flying on a budget with a view of how their travel could be so much better for a few additional dollars on KLM.

The KLM Flight Upgrader promotion is a VR tour of a long-haul KLM cabin featuring newly designed seating, catering services and state-of-the-art inflight entertainment.

“Passengers can spend as much time on board the virtual KLM flight as they would like, so they will never have to face the harsh reality of a budget flight,” KLM said of the US promotion.

KLM VR flight upgrader

“The Upgrader lets them try out the inflight entertainment system for free, where they can watch an episode and ten minutes of a recent blockbuster without paying extra as they would on a budget flight. Passengers can access the KLM Media App which provides content from numerous newspapers and magazines. They also get all the leg room they need to virtually stretch out. And like all KLM passengers, they experience the top-notch service of a KLM crew and inflight dining to satisfy their virtual hunger at no extra cost. (No scent or taste VR components included.)”

Fast Company, however, didn’t quite get the humor at first: “While obviously a ploy to show off how great KLM is compared to other airlines, it can easily be interpreted as elitist.” KLM’s reply to Fast Company: “KLM Royal Dutch Airlines often aims for a cheeky, humorous tone in its marketing, as seen in last year’s ‘KLM It’s an airline’ campaign.”

The airline added: “The ‘KLM Flight Upgrader’ campaign is intended to be playful and highlight the fact that we offer economy passengers an exceptional full service experience at a price point that is competitively priced to budget carriers. In retrospect we should have made that key message clear: our economy fares are competitively priced vs budget carriers, especially when you start adding in the substantial fees for basic services that budget carriers charge at every step along the journey.”

Using VR to promote travel experiences is not unusual these days; Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and Lufthansa Group have all used VR, and not “just (as) a handy tool for promotion. At APEX EXPO, SkyLights announced that Air France/KLM will bring the new AlloSky VR headset onboard, as part of the In-Flight Entertainment experience for the group’s new millennial-attitude airline brand Joon.

Using VR for internal training, KLM is using a simulation game to train its engineers in safety procedures. A simulation of one of KLM’s airplane hangars on a Samsung headset lets engineers and employees participate in exercises replicating time constraints and emergencies such as evacuation procedures in a fire or other crisis.

While traditional training takes one year for 300 people, the new approach requires ten minutes per user. KLM partnered with Dutch startup Warp Industries on the new program inspired by Warp’s research with Amsterdam University in VR simulation to train medical staff in CPR. Next up is a VR leadership training program for the airline’s managers including KLM’s sales team, cabin crew and check-in staff.

Guido Helmerhorst, head of innovation, technology and learning at KLM, is charged with training 30,000 employees

“The training for our cabin staff is on the ground – that’s about 10,000 people. So imagine the planning of that whole circus,” he said. “We have whole departments dealing with the training. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we could mix all of this: on the job training, classroom training, emotions, the procedures and the knowledge – get it all in and mix it up.”

Enter VR. “I can put in real environments, I can put in real situations, real people, real learning objectives and put it into the washing machine. The beauty of what we created with the evacuation scenario is if have decent smartphone you can play this and the only thing you need is a headset. It’s just a piece of plastic and lenses. It’s an immersive experience and it’s an individual experience. If we can cut the training time, then that’s the business case solved. The fact that I can take a smartphone and make it a portal to a whole learning universe is very powerful.”

No stranger to innovation, the Netherlands-based airline created its own pair of sneakers and uses facial recognition to speed passenger check-ins and recently used VR to give children in the hospital a chance to see the world – virtually.

At Wonju Severance Christian Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, KLM served up a 360 VR experience of worldwide icons including Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the brand’s home turf, Amsterdam.

Known for creative marketing, KLM Cargo also recently flew the Dutch Masters to Amsterdam (literally, using actors):

And KLM just introduced BB, the airline’s service bot for Facebook Messenger:


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