KLM made an initial repayment in the first quarter of the state aid it received during the corona crisis. Due to the sharp growth in the number of passengers, the airline was able to better fill the planes in the recent period, leading to an operating profit for the third consecutive quarter.
This made it possible to repay 311 million euros of the state aid received. KLM CEO Pieter Elbers calls the repayment “an extremely important step”. “We were really on our toes in 2020 and we had no idea how long the crisis would last,” he says. “This indicates that the worst is over.”
In 2020, KLM received 3.4 billion in loans and credits, which the state guaranteed. Of this, the airline spent 942 million euros.
Robust price tag
“This support is very important, but it also comes at a hefty price,” says Elbers. For example, KLM has to pay a lot of interest, and the employees hand over salaries as long as the loan is not repaid. “We hope to be able to take further steps with the refund soon,” said Elbers, indicating that demand for air travel is high.
The progress in the first quarter indicates that the recovery has continued, as the first three months of the year are traditionally a slow period. “But we see that in terms of occupancy rate, we are again approaching what we had before the corona pandemic,” says Elbers.
The entire Air France-KLM, which still had a loss due to a loss at Air France, expects a capacity of at least 80 percent of what it was in 2019 in the current period and at least 85 percent in the summer. For the budget subsidiary Transavia, there is already more capacity than there was before the corona. The aviation group does not expect to make a loss in the second quarter and a clear profit in the third.
What can still throw a screw in is problems at airports, such as the recent period at Schiphol. “Of course, it’s extremely frustrating for our customers,” says Elbers, who reiterates that Schiphol must first do everything it can to resolve staffing issues before canceling flights can be discussed. “It’s really too early.”
A tight labor market
KLM also acknowledges the lack of a labor market, says Elbers. “We understand the challenges, but we have to look for solutions.” In addition, the KLM CEO notes that the May holidays are “very concentrated” in terms of crowds. “During the summer holidays, flights for holidaymakers are spread over six weeks.”
For Elbers himself, the finish line is in sight. This summer, current NS boss Marjan Rintel will take over after him. ,, I have enjoyed working at KLM for thirty years, and I am grateful for that. I’m glad we’re crawling out of the valley again. “
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