KLM building again after tough times

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KLM CEO, Pieter Elbers

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo (AF-KL-MP) is starting to build again after several tough years, KLM president and chief executive officer, Pieter Elbers (pictured) says.

He made the comments in a press conference following the opening of AF-KL-MP’s new sorting system at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on 13 July.

Elbers explains that a major aim was to reduce the amount of physical work staff have to do.

Some staff have been moved to other areas or retrained, while others are being used for a flexible layer, and KLM has already reduced staff numbers.

Elbers says: “We are at the end of that process. We start to build again and invest in the future. In order to do that we need these people on different types of jobs than we had before.”

The investment in the new facility at Schiphol cost “tens of millions of euros”, and Elbers points out that investments used to be around €1 million a day but this was stepped up to two and now it is nearing three million.

He says: “When we embarked on the large change at KLM, we said we are going to change the company. We are going to cut costs on the one hand but invest on the other.”

Elbers says a lot of effort has gone into new aircraft including Boeing 777s and 787s, Fokkers have been replaced by Embraers.

He says the airline has always invested heavily in aircraft but it is also focusing on digital upgrades.

Elbers says: “This investment is part of the big plan to restructure the company and ensure we are 98 years old and we are preparing the company for the future.

“It is my sincere belief that you can only run a company if you continue to invest, and we had a few years of belt tightening policies but it should go hand in hand with investments.”

He says the new sorter at Schiphol is a perfect example of the investment, which will enable KLM to grow in the future.

Elbers admits when Air France KLM Cargo executive vice president, Marcel de Nooijer came to him with the investment proposal, cargo was struggling but the team convinced him the work was necessary to keep the airline relevant into the future.

KLM saw a reduction in market share at Schiphol because of reducing the number of freighters.

Elbers says rather than complain about the decision the airline is focusing on market segments where it can grow.

Elbers says: “With our unique network of 200 destinations and our facilities here [at Schiphol], we believe we can compete.

“These investments are more than just numbers but part of a bigger change in the company.”

He adds that cargo is essential to run a network the size of KLM’s in a country the size of the Netherlands, saying: “There is no way to run a network with over 200 destinations with 82 direct long-haul destinations without cargo.”

Elbers also says there will be no further reductions in the freighter fleet once the Boeing 747 Combis have been retired in 2020.