KLM Boss Eurlings Resigns

That was quite a short term! In July 2013 the former Dutch transport minister Camiel Eurlings was appointed President and CEO of KLM. Only 14 months later he unexpectedly announced stepping down from his post with immediate effect. The 41 year-old manager will be succeeded by Pieter Elbers.

Camiel Eurlings
Camiel Eurlings

Speculations are running high as to why Mr Eurlings decided to abandon his job at KLM in such a rush. Moreover since KLM declined to provide a comprehensible reason or to comment on his step.
All they said is this: “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.”
That’s it!

No wonder that the rumor mill is churning
According to internal information obtained by CargoForwarder Global his decision is mainly based on a growing rift between KLM and Air France. This creeping split became obvious during the recent strike of Air France cockpit personnel that cost the Franco-Dutch airline around €500 million. During the walkout that was opposed by many of KLM’s staff, Eurlings showed a rather reserved attitude towards his airline partner’s stance on the strike and in particular the French government’s lenient attitude towards the pilot’s harsh rejection to establish AF’s offspring Transavia as budget carrier serving routes within France and the entire EU at lower costs. This is the only way market shares could be retained and the further advance of rivals like Ryanair, Norwegian or easyJet successfully stopped. This was the basic strategy set up by AF’s management. An approach however, that was fiercely opposed by the carrier’s well paid pilots that feared loss of income and increases in working time. But instead of supporting AF’s decision makers the French government, one of the carrier’s stakeholders, stepped in and surrendered to the pilots’ main demands.

Pieter Elbers
Pieter Elbers

The split becomes visible
The Quai d’Orsay to AF’s cockpit staff giving in seemed to have been too much for KLM’s CEO. Shortly after the strike was called off, Eurlings’ opposition to decisions taken by the Hollande government in consultation with AF’s Paris headquarters became obvious by declaring internally that KLM should not contribute any money to the strike expenses caused by Air France’s cockpit people. His attitude has to be seen against the background of the Dutch carrier outperforming Air France financially ever since the carriers merged ten years ago. This includes cargo activities as well, where KLM retained its pole position cost-wise as well as operationally. This is in line with announcements by AF-KL-MP’s Cargo helmsman Eric Varvijk who claimed that a large amount of the air freight division’s losses were caused by an unfavorable internal cost attribution model (see CargoForwarder Global issue of October 10, 2014).

Eurlings will be replaced by Pieter Elbers who has been with KLM since 1992.
Born in 1970 in Schiedam, The Netherlands. Pieter Elbers graduated at the Open University of Amsterdam (Master in Business Administration) and the Academy of Venlo (Bachelor in Logistics Management). In addition he completed various Executive Programs at International Business Schools (in China, US, Switzerland). In 1992, Mr. Elbers started his career at KLM as Manager Aircraft Handling Schiphol. According to the Dutch Union De Unie Elbers is not known as a manager who avoids confrontation. So the conflicting discussions within the AF-KL-MP Group about the carrier’s future strategy are likely to continue and even gain momentum.

Heiner Siegmund

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