KLM CEO Pieter Elbers To Step Down After 2 Terms

After three decades with the airline and eight years at its helm, the time will soon come for Pieter Elbers to step down from the position of chief executive officer and president of KLM. Elbers will remain in his position as leader of the Dutch flag carrier until March 1st, 2023. However, a petition is already circulating among airline employees to reverse the decision.

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KLM’s Pieter Elbers will not sign on as the airline’s CEO for a third term. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The end of a ‘beautiful journey’

The decision for Pieter Elbers not to stay on for a third term as KLM president and CEO was approved by the Air France-KLM board of directors on Thursday. KLM’s supervisory board said the conclusion had been reached in ‘close consultation’ with Elbers, who has held the position since 2014.

Meanwhile, the outgoing CEO said he remains fully committed to the carrier he has been with for thirty years and that there is still much more work to be done before he steps down. KLM will present its vision for the future on February 3rd this year, in which sustainability is set to take center stage.

“It goes without saying that I am committed to supporting KLM in this transition to new leadership. I am extremely proud of this company and its fantastic employees. Especially in these hectic and difficult times, they remain the strength of KLM. My thirty-year career with the blue KLM family has been an unimaginably beautiful journey that I will always cherish,” Elbers said in a statement following the announcement.

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The KLM chief executive is incredibly popular within the company, and hundreds have already signed a petition for him to stay on for a third term. Photo: KLM

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Second term was far from certain

Pieter Elbers took over the role of CEO seven years ago, succeeding Camiel Eurlings, who had held the position for only a year and a half. While Elbers managed to turn the airline’s profitability around, he was seen as holding on too tightly to KLM‘s independence vis-a-vis parent company Air France-KLM.

As such, there was talk about not keeping him on for a second term when the renewal of his contract came around in 2019. However, over 25,000 KLM employed signed a petition, and Elbers signed on for four more years.

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KLM employees are concerned that there with Elbers gone, parent company Air France-KLM will have more to say in the running of the airline. Photo: Getty Images

New petition already up and running

According to NH Nieuws, yesterday’s announcement has prompted an immediate and similar response. At the time of writing this article on Friday morning, the online digital petition, open to current and ex KLM employees, had gathered close to 400 signatures. Many fear that with Elbers gone, the management of Air France-KLM will gain greater influence in the decisions concerning the airline.

Do you believe it is the right time for new leadership for the Dutch flag carrier? What do you think it will do for the dynamics with parent company Air France-KLM? Leave a comment in the section below and join the conversation.