Former Dutch transport minister Camiel Eurlings has stepped down as chief executive of airline KLM.
Eurlings left politics in 2010 ‘to focus on his family’ and joined the KLM board in 2011 as head of the freight division. He was appointed CEO in July 2013. He has left KLM with immediate effect and will be replaced by Pieter Elbers who has been with the company since 1992.
KLM did not say why Eurlings is leaving the company but speculation is rife. In particular, his stance during the recent Air France strike is said to have played a part.
The strike cost the airline €500m but Eurlings took a back seat and later declared KLM should not have to pay towards the cost. KLM has outperformed Air France since the two airlines merged in 2004.
The KLM statement simply said: ‘In view of the expiry of his current term in April 2015, Camiel Eurlings has decided in joint consultation with the KLM supervisory board to withdraw with immediate effect as President and CEO in order to pave the way for his successor.’
In an interview with Quote magazine which took place last week and has not yet been published, Eurlings said he had no thoughts about leaving. ‘I have only just started,’ he said.
Reinier Catelein, chairman of the De Unie union, said Eurlings had always defended Dutch jobs at KLM and he is concerned for the future. His replacement Pieter Elbers is known as someone who does not avoid confrontation, Castelein said.