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AF/KLM cargo up in 2018 despite pilots strikes

French and Dutch to focus on ‘good conduct’ after AF/KLM differences

AIR FRANCE-KLM remains ‘a solid company’ despite a share price dip immediately after the Dutch government ‘secretly’ acquired a 14 per cent stake in the hybrid European airline, insist Franco-Dutch finance ministers, writes Thelma Etim.

The French and Dutch have apparently been at loggerheads in recent months fuelled by concerns over Amsterdam Schiphol’s future and accusations of playing party politics clearly warranting a need to reaffirm both nations’ commitment to the joint project, writes Thelma Etim.

A joint statement reveals that a special working group has now been formed to focus on strengthening cooperation between the French and the Dutch governments. Its aim is to ensure the “continued development and growth” of AF/KLM,it points out.

The latest move follows a March 1 meeting between Bruno Le Maire, France’s minister of economy and finance and his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra.

“Hoekstra and Le Maire share the same priority of strengthening the AF/KLM group, a key European actor in European air transport with a global network of destinations from the hubs of Roissy Charles De Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol,” declares a joint official statement.

“AF/KLM is a solid company that finds itself in a challenging environment, being active in an extremely competitive market,” it adds.

Both ministers have underscored their support for Ben Smith, the current chief executive of the Franco-Dutch carrier, as well as for the senior management team of the group and its employees.

Smith, appointed as chief executive on September 17, 2018, plans to create a new Group CEO Committee to determine the strategic direction for the European carrier, which achieved a 6.4 per cent improvement in cargo revenues last year, despite pay strikes by pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, costing the business millions of euros.

In February, the company announced it had signed a new agreement with pilots’ union SNPL, which represents 75.9 per cent of the votes.

The new working group will be overseen by Martin Vial, director general of the French APE (Agence des Participations de l’Etat) and his counterpart Christiaan Rebergen, treasurer-general of the Dutch ministry of finance.

Below are the main topics to be assessed by the working group, as set out in the corporate statement:

  • The AF/KLM shareholdings of each nation and the capital structure of Air France and KLM
  • The governance rules and the respect by both governments of rules of good conduct
  • The composition of the board of directors
  • The defence of the interests of the hubs of both Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol
  • Their respective visions on the long-term strategy deployed by the management of the Air France-KLM group.
  • The original agreements of October 16, 2003 made between Air France, KLM and the Dutch state
  • The final outcome must be a fair and balanced one for all sides. We are firmly committed to reaching a conclusion on that final outcome before the end of June 2019.

Both ministers have agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis to ensure that progress is made swiftly, concludes the corporate statement.

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