AMSTERDAM/SAN FRANCISCO: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced that it has become the first airline in the world to sign up to the WhatsApp Business platform.

The Dutch flag carrier released a statement in which it explained that it is trialling a new service on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, that will offer customers booking confirmations, check-in notifications, boarding passes, flight status updates as well as the ability to answer questions in 10 different languages.

According to the statement, WhatsApp’s “enterprise solution” will help KLM and other businesses to connect with their customers in a fast and personal way.

And the rollout of the service has started already in a limited number of countries, with it expected to become more widely available in the coming weeks.

KLM customers will be able to access information via a verified WhatsApp business account, which also can be used to contact KLM’s 250-strong social media service agents, 24 hours a day.

Importantly, KLM emphasised that all messages will be secure so they can be read only by the customer and the company, and no one else – not even WhatsApp.

Commenting on the development, KLM President & CEO Pieter Elbers said: “I am very proud that KLM is the world’s first airline with a verified WhatsApp account. This unique partnership with WhatsApp underlines our position as an aviation pioneer.

“We want to be where our customers are and, given the 1 billion users, you have to be on WhatsApp. With an account verified by WhatsApp, we offer our customers worldwide a reliable way to receive their flight information and ask questions 24/7. This truly is a major next step in our social media strategy.”

KLM has been an enthusiastic adopter of social media for customer service purposes and already makes use of Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WeChat, the latter platform being especially popular in China.

News of KLM’s partnership with WhatsApp coincided with an announcement by the messaging service that it plans to launch new features specifically to help businesses, large and small, to better communicate with their customers.

“We're building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks,” the company said in a blogpost.

“These businesses will be able to use our solutions to provide customers with useful notifications like flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates.”

Data sourced from KLM, WhatsApp; additional content by WARC staff