Air France pushes Pieter Elbers, pattern of KLM, towards exit

At 51 years, the CEO of KLM, Dutch Air France subsidiary, will not make third term.


This is the end of a long arm of iron. Pieter Elbers, 51, iconic CEO of KLM, Dutch Air France subsidiary, will leave his post at the latest at the end of his second term that ends in May 2023, announced, Thursday, January 13, Air France -KLM. The Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board of the Group voted unanimously the non-renewal of Mr. Elbers. “Given the expiry of its second term, which offers the Supervisory Board a natural moment of reflection, we have, after consultation with Pieter, decided not to start a third term,” said Thursday Cornelis Hart, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of KLM. Pieter Elbers, who is not hostile to a departure, could even accelerate the deadlines. “After two mandates, more than eight years, leadership as CEO of KLM, I take over with confidence,” he said. The rumor would send it, at least temporarily, at Delta Airlines, American partner of Air France-KLM.

Strategic differences with Ben Smith

The eviction of the KLM boss finds, without a doubt, its origin in the strategic differences that have opposed Ben Smith, since the appointment of the latter to the General Directorate of Air France-KLM at the Summer 2018. When Mr. Smith has been a complete integration of KLM from his debut in the Franco-Dutch company, Mr. Elbers has been the champion of defending the independence of his subsidiary. Proof of this opposition, KLM will refuse Ben Smith’s entry to the company’s board of directors. In 2019, the Netherlands authorities have even launched a secret stock market to contact 14% of the capital of Air France-KLM at the same level as French participation. But with the occurrence of the pandemic, the wind turned. With billions of euros, France resumed its leadership in the group with 28.6% of capital against only 9.3% in the Netherlands, plus pins. Symbol of Ben Smith’s victory, Air France-KLM announced, in mid-December 2021, a giant order of 160 aircraft to equip the fleets of Air France, from Transavia, but also from KLM. A group command at which the KLM boss had always refused.

/Media reports.