Airline CEO reveals his favorite travel hack — and it makes perfect sense

KLM CEO pieter elbersKLM CEO Pieter Elbers.KLM

  • We asked KLM Royal Dutch Airlines CEO Pieter Elbers for some travel tips.
  • Elbers believes in having an organized system when it comes to packing.
  • He also goes on early morning runs to combat jetlag.

Air travel can be hectic these days. Even for frequent flyers. Which is why we went to someone who spends a good portion of his life on a plane for advice, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines CEO Pieter Elbers.

Founded in 1919, KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. Elbers has been at the helm of the Dutch airline since 2014.

According to Elbers, who’s on a flight to somewhere in the world a few times every month, having an organizational plan is key.

When asked if he uses any apps or high tech organizational aids, the KLM CEO jokingly replied, “No, by the time I need an app to remember what I need to pack, I should be out of a job, right?”

Instead, he’s worked out a system whereby everything he needs is always placed in the same spot in his suitcase.

“Everything is in a fixed place. Everything is packed in the same way. I’m boarding an aircraft about every other week, so I want to make sure I don’t forget anything,” he told us in a recent interview. “I need everything to be done in the very same way. I know where everything is packed, I know the sequence of packing it. So yes, I do it in the same very structured way.”

How to beat jetlag?

Since the human body’s internal clock can adjust no more than an hour and half a day, jetlag is almost inevitable on long trips. Since KLM’s route network crisscrosses the globe, that means a lot of long trips for Elbers.

KLM Boeing 777 300ERKLM

So how does he deal with jetlag? An early morning run.

“Well, beating jet lag for me is an early morning run. So, wherever I go, I wake up early, I do my run, and that’s, for me, the way to beat the jet lag,” he said. “Well, being in New York now it’s — there’s no better place to run in the morning than in Central Park. So that’s what I do.”

According to the University of Sydney’s Professor Steve Simpson, activity and exposure to sunlight are two good ways of combating the effects of jetlag. So Elbers’ advice is actually backed by science.

Is Tuesday a good time a to buy tickets?

There are many that believe, whether correctly or incorrectly, that Tuesday afternoons are the best time to buy plane tickets if you’re looking for a good deal. Unfortunately, the KLM boss doesn’t agree.

“Well, it’s definitely not Tuesday afternoon,” Elbers said emphatically. “So, prices are changing all the time according to the season, according to the demand, according to the specific circumstances. So, I wouldn’t be able to give you a sort of specific time of the year, time of the moment.”

KLM Business class HeinekenKLM

“Obviously, outside the holiday period, it’s — pricing is different than within the holiday period which is a bit similar I guess to hotels and all kinds of other businesses,” he added.

How do I get upgraded on a KLM flight?

There are few thing more prizing in air travel than scoring that free upgrade to a premium cabin. There have been countless advice columns on how to dress and what to say to close the deal with airline staff. But for Elbers, it’s loyalty to KLM that matters most.

“Well, sometimes we do have overbooking situations, and in that case, of course, we try to find our most loyal customers and try to reward them for their loyalty — even if they fly coach — to have them upgraded,” he told us. “So I guess, the answer to your question is, to be a loyal customer on KLM and you’ll have the most chance to be upgraded.”

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