KLM Organizes Amsterdam Meetups Between Locals and Flyers With Long Layovers

What could go wrong?

Airline promotions are getting awfully chummy these days.

First, JetBlue invited passengers on a coast-to-coast flight to "Reach Across the Aisle" and cooperate to win round-trip tickets. Now, Dutch carrier KLM introduces "Layover With a Local" for flyers from the U.S., Canada and Italy who make stops in Amsterdam.

Sounds kind of dirty. But it isn't. At least, it's not meant to be.

KLM travelers from those departure points who have layovers of six hours or more at Schiphol airport are eligible to participate, as are folks who live in the Dutch capital.

People 18 or older can register using the "Layover With a Local" app, available March 1, to schedule Amsterdam meet-ups—one traveler with one local citizen—between March 22 and May 31. Users create profiles, and the app creates matches based on various criteria. If travelers reject the app's first suggestion, the system searches for another match.

The campaign is designed to help KLM "strengthen the relationship with their high value, long-haul passengers," says Michael van den Brande, strategist at Dutch agency Achtung, which masterminded the promotion.

"The local recruitment campaign is focused on groups that have an intrinsic motivation to meet up with a traveler," he says. "For example, we're targeting language students so they can practice their Italian with a native speaker. And we're tapping into the expat community because we feel like they might enjoy showing their new home to someone from their home country. The app facilitates this matchmaking by linking people with similar languages and interests."

Participants on layovers must travel about 15 minutes by train from the airport to Amsterdam Central Station for the meet and greet. KLM picks up the cost of that ride, and will also pay for the first round of drinks (if the traveler and local choose to visit one of several trendy taverns).

Airline spokesman Joost Ruempol tells AdFreak that KLM views itself as "a social company," and believes this program "can make a difference" in a positive way, both for the brand and participants.

"Layover With a Local," Ruempol says, is a natural progression from earlier KLM initiatives, like "Meet and Seat," which invited flyers to share personal information via social media to learn about their fellow passengers on upcoming flights.

Still, the new promotion does bring together strangers in an unsupervised setting, which could, at least in theory, entail certain risks. And things need not get far out of hand to tarnish the brand. What if a meetup simply goes awry because one of the people drinks too much or gets belligerent? In the age of rampant social media, that could quickly accelerate into a #BrandFailOfEpicProportions.

Ruempol said KLM will test the program for the next two months "to see how people respond" and believes it will yield "a very positive campaign."


Client: KLM

Agency: Achtung!

Development: Superhero Cheesecake

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@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.