Dutch readying 2-4bn aid package for KLM: minister

The Hague (AFP) –


The Dutch government plans to prop up KLM during the coronavirus crisis with an aid package worth between two to four billion euros, the finance minister said Friday, shortly after Paris pledged help for partner airline Air France.

"I would like to announce that the cabinet intends to provide between two and four billion in financial support to KLM," Wopke Hoekstra told a news conference in The Hague.

"We are currently working out the exact form and details," Hoekstra said but he added the package will be "in the form of loans and guarantees."

The Dutch national carrier, which flies from the global hub of Schiphol airport outside Amsterdam, has been hard hit by the impact of the virus on air travel, with more than 90 percent of its fleet grounded since last month.

Schiphol, which saw some 71 million passengers past its gates in 2018 has also been severely affected by the grounding of its flagship airline, which last year celebrated its centenary.

KLM was the "first in a row of dominoes," Hoekstra said.

"If KLM topples it will not only have consequences for the company and its personnel...," the minister said.

Dutch infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said without KLM, Schiphol would lose about 40 percent of its air traffic.

"We cannot afford to lose such an essential link," Van Nieuwenhuizen said.

The airport directly and indirectly created more than 100,000 jobs, she told journalists.

The Dutch government owns a 14 percent stake in Air France-KLM.

Strings attached would include not paying bonuses, profit sharing or dividends.

"I realise that this is not an easy message for KLM. But it is about tax money which is needed from all of us to strengthen KLM's position," Hoekstra said.

France earlier announced a seven billion euro aid package for Air France.