Dutch DJ Sied van Riel uses Twitter to score direct KLM flights to Ultra in Miami
How many Dutch DJs, producers, and dance music fans does it take to get a major airline to completely reroute its flight plans? The answer: about 150 of them, plus the power of Twitter and the cosign of Dutch dance music god Tiësto.
On the Wednesday of the sprawling week of parties surrounding Ultra Music Festival, a special KLM flight will touch down in Miami filled only with industry types, and only from Amsterdam and its environs. It wasn't supposed to happen that way — in fact, KLM wasn't even set to start direct service to Miami from Amsterdam until April.
The airline, though, is very social media savvy — just like Dutch progressive trance producer Sied van Riel and his buddy, filmmaker Wilco Jung. Thus the Fly2Miami campaign was born, translating a Twitter hashtag into real-life plane trips to South Florida.
The idea germinated last year when van Riel made his maiden voyage to Winter Music Conference, spinning at Nikki Beach, Nocturnal, and Karu & Y, with extracurricular partying at Space and Ultra. Though he arrived in town following a South American tour that brought him to Miami from Buenos Aires, getting home was circuitous, with a reroute through Düsseldorf, Germany. Still, it was par for the course.
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So when he and Jung booked their tickets for this year, they noticed something curious. "When I tried to book my flight, I saw I could get from Miami to Amsterdam, but not from Amsterdam to Miami," recalls Jung, whose company We Are the Night produces videos for Tiësto and other titans. "That was odd, so I started to Twitter to KLM."
Van Riel also took up the cause. "I saw a Tweet from KLM saying that they were going to open up a direct flight between Amsterdam and Miami on March 28. So I replied and said, 'Why don't you start a week earlier? We need a direct flight, as we are all going to Miami in that period,'" he recalls. "They eventually replied and said, 'OK, we will give you a plane as long as you can fill it up in six days.'"
They needed at least 150 reservations, and van Riel was then touring in Australia. He was working against a huge time difference. But the Internet has legs. Thanks to the hashtag #fly2miami, along with the close-knit nature of the Dutch electronic music community, word spread quickly.
But the major coup came when Tiësto himself tweeted a message about the flight. "Tijs is a good friend of ours," van Riel says. "He liked the idea, and once we went public, he was kind enough to share it with his followers." That tweet might seem like a small gesture — but consider the fact that Tiësto enjoys more than 346,000 followers on the site.
Not only did Jung and van Riel meet the crazy deadline, but also they made it in under half the time allotted. The flight sold out in 48 hours. "It became clear to KLM very quickly that the idea of a direct flight to Miami is a popular one among the Dutch dance scene," says Martijn van der Zee, vice president of e-commerce at KLM. "We can rightly call it a first — the first time KLM will deploy an aircraft following a request on Twitter."
The event is marked by an illustrious group of travelers. Besides DJs, producers, publicists, A&R types, bloggers, and so on, van Riel says the CEO of KLM and the mayor of Amstelveen (where KLM has headquarters) will also take the inaugural Amsterdam-Miami flight. And to mark the occasion, Jung and van Riel are releasing an official compilation via Black Hole Recordings, featuring many of the artists on board.
There's one more first planned for Fly2Miami, too. Dutch television network BNN and radio station 3FM will join the trip to document it for posterity — a move that, organizers say, will mark the highest-altitude radio broadcast ever. "As far as I can tell now, it will all be live. We have been discussing every small detail as flight safety is our main priority," van Riel says.
Yet even if the broadcast ends up being recorded and broadcast later, the entire affair will be kitted out in a way befitting the party-hearty dance music industry. "We have a DJ booth set up during the flight. The in-flight entertainment system has been adjusted. We have special food on board," he says. "We [even] have a DJ booth set up at the check-in desk in Amsterdam and special decorations. You name it, we got it!"
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