May 14, 2018 / 10:21 AM / 7 months ago

KLM CEO says unrealistic Dutch business could leave Air France

FILE PHOTO: KLM chairman Pieter Elbers attends a news conference in Paris, France January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The head of Air France-KLM’s (AIRF.PA) Dutch subsidiary rejected as unrealistic suggestions that KLM could somehow abandon the partnership with Air France following a series of costly strikes at the French business.

Pieter Elbers said KLM had benefited from the increased scale of the joint company, created in 2004, and the two businesses needed each other.

“Just as it’s not feasible for KLM to continue independently, it’s also not feasible for Air France to go on alone,” he said in an interview on Dutch television.

“That’s the strength of the combination, we need each other badly.”

Elbers’ remarks come ahead of a meeting by Air France-KLM’s board on Tuesday to decide on an interim leadership team in the wake of the resignation of CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac, after Air France workers rejected his pay increase proposal..

Elbers said profits at Air France had totalled 500 million euros in recent years, while strikes this year by the French business’s workers had cost the company 400 million euros.

Striking is a right, but “it brings, in my view, an enormous responsibility with it,” he said on the Buitenhof programme on Sunday.

“Not every goal justifies using any means.”

He said hopes the French government would ultimately come to the company’s rescue were also an “illusion” because state aid is forbidden by European Union law.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter

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