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How KLM is Using AI to Make Flights More Sustainable

The new AI-powered program can result in tens of thousands of fewer meals wasted on flights per year

by Samir Kadri

February 8, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of KLM

KLM, the national airline of the Netherlands, has implemented an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) model called TRAYS that helps to reduce food waste by predicting the number of passengers who will not turn up for their flights.

The airline has found that between 3% and 5% of passengers do not show up for their flights, leading to over 100,000kg of food waste from uneaten meals being thrown away.

Photo: Courtesy of KLM

TRAYS uses historical data to forecast the number of passengers who will not show up for their flights. This helps KLM match the number of meals stocked on the flight with the exact passenger count, reducing food waste. The program was trialed for three months and helped to reduce food waste by 63%.

TRAYS is the first AI model developed specifically for the culinary aspect of the Air France-KLM business. It uses the ‘Meals on Board System’ (MOBS) feature to forecast the number of passengers per flight in three separate classes – Business, Premium Comfort, and Economy.

Photo: World first – KLM and Heineken introduce draught beer trolley on board. Courtesy of KLM.

The AI model begins predicting 17 days before a flight’s departure and continues until 20 minutes before takeoff. The system reduces the number of meals loaded onto a plane and the amount prepared in catering facilities.

“Investments in digital technology are a priority for KLM. The application of artificial intelligence contributes enormously to improving our flight operations and making them more sustainable,” said Marjan Rintel, CEO of KLM. “Combatting food waste is a good example of this, resulting in tens of thousands fewer meals being wasted on our flights each year.”

In 2023, Kickstart AI introduced TRAYS. It is a product of collaboration among experts from leading companies such as Bol, Ahold Delhaize, NS, ING, and KLM.

Sander Stomph, CEO and co-founder of Kickstart AI, expressed his satisfaction with the project’s success. He stated that their objective with Kickstart AI is to hasten the adoption of AI in the Dutch business community by working closely with Dutch companies.

Photo: Courtesy of KLM

Although the term “AI” is often mentioned in the airline industry, there are few tangible examples of how artificial intelligence improves airline operations. This program is a potential breakthrough for KLM, which claims to deploy AI in other aspects of its business, such as aircraft maintenance, weather forecasting, and offering customized travel tips to passengers after booking their flight.

KLM’s strategic integration of AI across its business highlights the company’s broader commitment to sustainability and customer service through investment in data analytics. Time will tell how significantly AI can enhance the aviation industry.