How KLM Uses Design To Innovate With Passengers At Their Boarding Gates

Created August 28, 2019 The Business Value of Design

Over the years KLM or Royal Dutch Airlines in English, has grown to be one of the most innovative airlines in the world, sustaining a level of growth that keeps them relevant, even after over 100 years of business.

In these times when companies face disruption and aggressive competition, many wonder how a century-old company is managing to stay relevant in this modern time?

One of the most noteworthy steps KLM took was discovering and partnering with an organization that really understood design and how to use it to meet their customers’ needs, in a way most companies aren’t used to doing.

With stiff competition in the aviation industry on the rise where companies’ ability to gain market share is tight, KLM saw the need to develop a partnership with TU Delft University based in the Netherlands, to co-create solutions to meet the needs of their customers. This partnership was aimed at helping KLM develop new products and optimise their existing processes. They realised that if they could get that right, it would greatly improve their customers’ experience and the number of products and services they could offer them, giving them a competitive edge in the market.

This was the expectation that drove KLM into partnership with Onami to form the X-gates in Amsterdam Airport, Schipol. The goal of the X- gates is quite simple; get people to think up as many ideas as possible, prototype quickly and test with passengers, cabin crew, pilots and other stakeholders in the project.



Presently, Schipol is the third busiest airport in Europe, which makes it a good ground to test product and service prototypes with a wide range of people from different backgrounds and nationalities.

This has helped the team at KLM become well informed about their customers’ pain points through the tests they conducted, and the best part is that the entire process was done at no extra cost since passengers participated while waiting for their flight. This has also helped customers and travellers connect better with the brand as they are made to feel like they’re a part of the change processes in the company.

Lessons to be learned

The X-gate which first seemed like an anomaly, as other airlines and security agencies didn’t see the sense in it, has now become a trendsetter in the airline industry worldwide. It has helped KLM become one of the most innovative airlines in Europe and has helped them create noteworthy services. One of such services is the Travel with kids program, which reduces a huge pain point for parents by allowing them to keep track of their kids who have to travel alone due to one reason or another. This program allows kids from 11 years of travel alone while allowing their parents to monitor them remotely using their smartphones or laptops. KLM has also been able to run successful campaigns like #thehappytohelp campaign which helps not only KLM passengers but passengers from other airlines get all they need to fly stress-free.

Also read: The Value A Branding and Creative Agency Can Bring To Your Business

Essentially, having your customers involved in your creative process when trying to build for them is always an advantage as it continually puts you in their shoes, helping you to see and understand their perspectives deeply.

This gives you a clear direction on how you can satisfy their needs while opening up opportunities for innovation.


How can you use this in your business?

You can incorporate this into your business by finding partners. An example of these partners could be Design establishments, such as Design Strategy firms who specialise in innovation and Design Thinking. These entities can help you create a collaborative system where you partner with your customers using the methods around design and innovation to discover ways to grow your business.

KLM found this in Onami Delft, which is based in the Netherlands. However, as a company in Nigeria, you don’t need to go too far to benefit from the advantages of partnering with a design agency as we, DODO, a Design Agency based in Nigeria also offers those services.

Create your own “X-gate.” It doesn’t have to be something big; it could just be a means where you can connect with your customers and have them share thoughts and ideas about your product/service.

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  • DODO admin

    Thomas Osume

    Design Strategist

    Loves design and how it improves lives and businesses

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