Once again: thank you LHS for bringing on yet another ‘exclusive Aviation Megastore release’, together with Inflight200. It brings us perhaps the most beautiful jetliner in the Transavia history, the B757!
At other occasions here on the forum, like retro Transavia diecast models, I have written about Transvia’s first years. Perhaps it would be nice if I dig into an overview of the past 55 years and define the place the B757 has had in this storyline. It is my interpretation of information and experience I have gained over the past 20 years listening to the stories of the people who have been part of Transavia’s rich history.
‘Being small' is deeply rooted in Transavia's DNA. Sister Martinair and mama KLM were always bigger and stronger, so Transavia had to be smarter and agile. Three phases can be defined, each showing a significant change in strategy over a period of roughly 20 years each. All the big changes were set in motion while the status quo was that the company was actually doing well at the time and that change didn't seem necessary: A pitfall in the dynamic world of aviation. The key to Transavia's successes is that the company has always been able to anticipate major changes in the market in advance.
‘Transavia Holland’: the charter years (1966-1986)
With DC-6s, Caravelle's and a hired B707 every conceivable job was taken on. From leisure flights to the Mediterranean to the Biafra airlift where DC-6 landed in the jungle without any lights and returned to their base with bullet holes. Under the leadership of first director John Block, Transavia was an enterprising cowboy of aviation.
With the buy-in of the KNSM begin ‘70, there was a change in management and the company was given more structure. From 1976 the fleet was standardized on B737-200 (and a single B707 until 1982). Transavia excelled at flying for third parties in dry and wet lease constructions. Of course, in addition to the well-known holiday charters for tour operators. From 1979, these successes are largely due to a true aviation entrepreneur: the garismatic CEO Peter Legro, who taught the staff to have an eye for detail and service. Legro resigned in 2002 but remained “Mister Transavia”. He passed away in 2018. B737-800 PH-HXI is honoured with his name.
‘Transavia Airline’: the airline years (1986-2004)
When the opportunistic ‘90s dawned, Transavia Holland was renamed Transavia Airline C.V., the name it officially still has today. The shares were now 100% in hands of the successor of the KNSM, Nedlloyd. The livery changed to more white, the ‘T’ disappeared from the tail, the uniforms of the cabin staff changed to yellow and green was no longer the dominant color. The charter product was approximately 80% of the business, but also scheduled service were introduced like the twice daily Schiphol - London Gatwick run, including a business class service.
In 1988 KLM became 40% shareholder of Transavia Airlines and from this moment the little fighter in the market was neatly included in KLM's total production package. Due to the flourishing global economy, passengers demanded for more exotic destinations like Thailand or Nepal. At that moment Transavia decided to buy Boeing 757 and even planned for the B767, just like Martinair did around the same time. The plans for the B767 never materialized. However, the B757s were delivered between 1993 and 1996.
The PH-TKD was the fourth and last of Transavia's own B757 and the only one to be delivered from the factory in the then new 'Cucumber' livery. With the ‘cucumber’ Legro wanted to bring back the ‘green feeling'. The stylized ‘T’ on the tail represented the commander's four stripes, with a blue reference to KLM, which now owned 80% of the shares. One point of critism on the model: the upper curve of the cucumber does not extend high enough on the aft fuselage.
Basiq Air and transavia.com: low-cost years (2004 – now)
And then the promise of the 90s seems to end in a bubble at the change of the millennium. The holiday market was liberalized back in 1993 and ten years later Transavia became a full KLM daughter, realized that it should dependent less on others for selling tickets. Transavia left the profitable ‘Inclusive Tour’-Europe market in order to sell their own seats and they even took the bold step to stop paying commissions to intermediaries. Unprecedented at the time. The Basiq Air product was founded: a 'point to point' network without frills, were you bought the tickets directly at www.transavia.nl
. With the upcoming ultra lowcost carriers these steps turned out to be a crucial fundament for future competitions.
The online product worked well, but the Basiq Air brand was not recognizable enough and in 2005 Transavia merged the tour operator product (B2B) and consumer selling product (B2C) into one transavia.com concept (deliberately written in small capital ‘t’). Again, a vital step as today less than 20% of Transavia’s marked is based on tour operators and more than 80% of tickets are sold online. Together with twin sister Transavia France, the AF/KLM group's budget brand has expanded by more than 300% in the last 15 years due to a strong online market position. After a number of lean years, 2018 and 2019 were the most successful and profitable years in Transavia's history.
Why the B757 no longer fitted in:
The most important element of a low-cost product is that you keep costs under control. A fleet with multiple types and different products (classes) only drives up the costs. That is why in 2003 Transavia said goodbye to the B757. The B737NG, which was introduced shortly before, took over already a part of the B757 production due to its larger capacity and range and the few intercontinental destinations did not lend themselves to the low-cost principle.
The B757 was an ideal modern aircraft for Transavia Airline during the 90s, but it was too costly in the budget era. Transavia has owned 4 own B757-200 and 3 more were leased in. During the last year of Transavia 757 service, with two machines already sold, two long body B757-300s were leased in for the 2003 summer season.
This aircraft was the last own B757 to join the fleet and the first to leave in 2003. However it returned to Transavia for one last time during the holiday season of 2007 as a wet lease from Air Finland. The last action of this bird was in April this year as VQ-BZE for Azur Air. It is now painted black and was used for VIP charters. At this moment it is stored and recently received the registration RA-73029.
In many ways the B757 is more modern in its avionic design than the Boeing 737. Systems like EICAS (Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System) were a new feature on the B757 back in 1982 and has become an industry standard since. It is obsolete in the B737NG and just an option in Max cockpit architecture.
But the B737 doesn't win on modern technology (or its looks either). A B757-200 flies 220 passengers over a typical range of 7.000 km, with a MTOW of 116 tonnes. A B737-800 flies 189 passengers over 5.500 km with a MTOW of 80 tonnes and the latest model Max10 can even transport 230 passengers over 6.000 km with a MTOW of 90 tonnes. Combine this with a typical fuel burn for the B757 of 4.68 kg/km versus the B737Max of 3.30 kg/km and we all know that the B757 can’t compete. The B757 is arguably one of the most beautiful modern jet aircraft. But in the end, it’s all about the money, isn’t it?