CEO Column

The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order – Alfred North Whitehead

09 July 2018

Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, I enjoy running. Not marathons or anything like that, just a nice stretch to stay fit. One of my sporting highlights every year therefore, is the Dam to Dam Run in September. We cover the 16 kilometres from Amsterdam to Zaandam with over 1,200 KLM colleagues, swarming between start and finish like a giant flock of blue birds.

Mixed feelings

During this run, I always experience some mixed feelings somewhere around the halfway mark. On the one hand, I feel pride and satisfaction for the distance I’ve already covered, while on the other hand, I think to myself: “Phew, I’m not there yet. I’m pretty tired. It’s hot. Why am I doing this? The lead runners are way ahead, etcetera, etcetera.”

In short, it’s a combination of euphoria on the one hand and a hint of doubt on the other. Nevertheless there’s also the drive to push on. The pleasant prospect of achieving the result together – in this case crossing the finish line – eliminates the doubt. Perhaps those of you active in sports recognise these feelings. And we could draw all sorts of other comparisons, of course.

Today, on 9 July 2018, I look back and see the record KLM results of 2017. In April of this year, a profit sharing among KLM staff no less than EUR 170 million, fantastic investments, recruitment of hundreds of new KLM colleagues, satisfied customers, and a great, positive and innovative KLM spirit ‘all over the place’.

At this moment, when I look around, however, I hear some doubts arising. We’ve agreed on a new collective labour agreement (CLA) for ground personnel with the FNV, but the other unions have yet to agree. And as capacity is running out at Schiphol, we can’t grow as fast as we’d like. And the CLA agreement in principle which we negotiated with the cockpit, didn’t make it past their members’ council. Negotiation deals are always a matter of give and take. That’s why I feel it’s such a pity this agreement in principle has been rejected. We’ll have to put our heads together with the VNV board again, to see how we will continue from here.

‘Eyes on the ball’

And then there’s the situation within the AF-KL Group. The sudden departure of Jean-Marc Janaillac early May prompted a great deal of uncertainty, as people await the appointment of a new AF-KL CEO and the status of the CLA negotiations at Air France. We should not allow ourselves to be distracted by the on-going attention for this; “we keep our eyes on the ball”. That means we need to stay focused on our customers, on safe operations, on internal solidarity and on cooperation! As soon as more information is available, I will share it with you.

At the same time, there are so many excellent and impressive initiatives underway, which underline that our KLM guiding principle of “Change, Participate and Win” still stands. Today we will release our solid traffic figures for the first half of 2018, during which we welcomed no fewer than 16.6 million passengers, another new record. Compared to the same period for example in 2014, this is even an increase of 3.3 million! On 1 August, our mid-year results for 2018 will be released and we will know what these good passenger numbers mean for our bottom line.

Positive spirit

The fuel price rose from USD 40 per barrel in 2017 to well over USD 70 per barrel at present. That puts pressure on our results and means we’ll have to keep an even closer eye on our costs. We need to join hands in finding ways to reduce costs, so that we can keep investing in the future of our business, our customers and our staff.

Last Saturday saw the start of the summer holidays in the Netherlands. With 220,000 passengers passing through Schiphol every day, this is the absolute peak period for KLM, particularly for our colleagues in operations. I’d like to reiterate the words of COO René de Groot: “Take good care of our customers and each other, in the air and on the ground.”

From where we stand, if
I look ahead, I see we should press on. Press on the path we embarked upon, press on with our positive spirit and press on as though we are running that second half of the Dam to Dam Run together!

For those of you heading off on holiday in the coming months. I wish you happy holidays with your family, friends or alone. In all instances, I hope you find time to rest and reflect.

See you next time!