Pieter Elbers will leave as CEO of KLM at the beginning of next year. His current (second) term ends on May 1, 2023. The airline’s supervisory board says it has been “decided in good consultation” not to let him run for a third term.

Elbers says that he will remain committed to the company until the end and that he will confidently hand over the baton to his successor. “I am particularly proud of KLM and its wonderful employees. They remain the strength of KLM, especially in these hectic and difficult times. My thirty-year career with the blue family is an unimaginably beautiful journey that I will always cherish.”

‘Dearly loved’

The announced departure has hit the KLM works council hard, chairman Fucci told ANP news agency. “The CEO who steered our company through the worst storm in our existence is going to leave us. This will be a heavy message for many colleagues and people really need time to process this.”

According to Fucci, Elbers is “highly appreciated and much loved”. “This really hit like a bomb,” says Fucci, who was flying from Istanbul to Schiphol as captain at the time of the announcement. “I had two flight attendants on board who stood with tears in their eyes when they just heard the news,” said the Works Council chairman. “My phone exploded too.”

Air France

Yet he was not always loved by parent company Air France-KLM. Elbers is said to have regularly opposed plans that would limit KLM’s autonomy. This led to a fuss about his reappointment after the first term in 2019. At the time, thousands of KLM employees signed a petition for the reappointment of Elbers; Rarely has there been so much commotion around an appointment or reappointment of a top executive.

KLM employees are pleased with Elbers and see him as a champion and defender of Dutch interests, says economics reporter Wessel de Jong. “The battle between the two top men of Air France-KLM, Ben Smith and Pieter Elbers, seemed to have faded into the background. The sharpest edges had been removed. The departure of Elbers seems to be going in a neat way, although the question remains to what extent he himself was really ready at KLM.”

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