Dutch and French pump billions into ‘essential’ airlines KLM and Air France
The Dutch cabinet is prepared to pump between €2bn and €4bn into airline KLM, most likely in the form of loans and bank guarantees, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters at a hastily arranged press conference on Friday evening.
KLM’s fleet has been virtually grounded by the coronavirus pandemic and the support had been expected as the airline is considered essential to the Dutch economy.
‘The two governments want to support Air France-KLM through these difficult times to recover its competitiveness consistent with strong, sustainable development commitments,’ Hoekstra and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said in a joint statement.
France is also pumping up to €7bn into Air France and parent company Air France-KLM.
Hoekstra told reporters that the precise size and conditions for support for KLM still have to be agreed with both banks and the airline. These conditions would involve commitments in terms of profit sharing, working conditions and sustainability, he said.
The Dutch and French states both have a 14% stake in the Air France-KLM group, which has a combined workforce of 114,000. The Dutch state also has a 6% stake in KLM and, according to the Financieele Dagblad, Hoekstra may also be considering buying more shares.
‘By preventing KLM’s collapse, we have prevented a string of the building blocks in our economy and our society from getting into difficulty,’ Hoekstra said. Infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, who was also at the press conference, said that it would be ‘irresponsible’ to lose such an company.
Unions and employers have both welcomed news of the rescue package.
Labour MP Henk Nijboer has called for a debate on the deal, saying that the PvdA wanted strong commitments on retaining jobs and on bonuses. Both Air France-KLM and KLM have been at the centre of media storms in the past week over potential bonuses for their respective chief executives.
Environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement that KLM still does not pay tax on kerosene or on plane tickets. Nor is the aviation sector covered in the government’s environmental plans.
‘Now the government is helping KLM and its workforce in this uncertain period, the time is right to make concrete agreements with the aviation sector,’ the organisation said.
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