Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra and transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen held talks with the new chief executive of the Air France-KLM group early on Friday morning, broadcaster NOS said.
The aim was to impress upon Canadian national Ben Smith the importance of KLM’s independent position within the group and on the crucial nature of Schiphol airport to the Dutch economy, NOS reported.
Smith, who took over in September, is known to be keen to see Air France and KLM unify through common aircraft orders, alliances and flight programmes but the plans have caused unease in the Netherlands. KLM reports better financial results compared to Air France even though it is much smaller.
In addition, a decision on the future of KLM chief executive Pieter Elbers is supposed to be taken at the next meeting of the combined group board of directors next week, website Aerotime reported.
Last week, Bloomberg published a letter from a group of KLM managers in which they threatened to strike if Elbers, whose term in office is now up for renewal, is let go. ‘The possibility of an unexplainable, involuntary departure of our CEO brings a lot of tension in the workforce,’ the managers wrote.
Smith did not comment after Friday’s meeting but Hoekstra said the talks were ‘good and intensive’. ‘Thousands and thousands of Dutch jobs are involved,’ he said, adding that the Netherlands wants these to be guaranteed in the long term.
The Dutch state owns a 6% stake in Air France-KLM which was formed in 2004.
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