Airline boss admits ‘tensions’ as KLM marks 100 years

SCHIPHOL, NETHERLANDS (AFP) – The Chief Executive of Air France-KLM admitted “tensions” over the future of the airline alliance as the Dutch carrier marked its 100th anniversary on Monday.

Frictions burst into the open earlier this year when the Dutch government unexpectedly raised its stake in the group to almost the same level as the French state.

The surprise move followed years of disagreements over the profitability of Air France and KLM, which merged in 2004 but continue to operate largely separately.

“Yes, there may be some tensions,” Air France-KLM’s Canadian CEO Ben Smith told a press conference in a hangar at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. “I think that when you have two airlines in a group that are so important for each country, and mean so much in each country and in the history of each country… it’s only natural to see that each government wants to secure their interests for the future.”

Smith added that the French and Dutch governments “are looking to ensure both companies a strong future”. In February, the Dutch government caused a political storm when it unexpectedly lifted its stake in the airline to 14 per cent, just shy of the 14.3 per cent held by France.