KLM Passenger Increase Hides Fall at Sister Company Air Franceby
Dutch carrier’s 6.4% advance spurs group-wide increase
French unit suffers 1.4% slide, while discount arm expands
Dutch airline KLM boosted its passenger tally 6.4 percent last year, ensuring that parent Air France-KLM Group also posted a gain despite slumping numbers at sister company Air France, where strikes and a spate of terrorist attacks crimped traffic.
KLM added 1.8 million more customers in 2016, for a total of 30.4 million, while Air France saw its figure slip by 691,000, or 1.4 percent, to 49.8 million, including the Hop! regional business, according to a statement Monday.
The contribution of Amsterdam Schiphol airport-based KLM helped lift the group’s overall tally by 4 percent to 93.4 million. The gain was helped by a near 23 percent surge at discount unit Transavia, where the passenger count advanced 2.5 million at 13.3 million.
Alexandre de Juniac stood down as Air France-KLM chief in July after failing to force through cost cuts at the French arm in the face of employee opposition. Union hostility has prompted a series of walkouts, most recently in June, when a four-day strike led to the cancellation of 20 percent of flights, costing an estimated 40 million euros ($42 million).
Successor Jean-Marc Janaillac has said he’ll take a more conciliatory approach and is shaking up senior management, especially at Air France, as he seeks to fend of the challenge of discount carriers in Europe and Persian Gulf operators on long-haul routes.
Air France unions have attracted the ire of their KLM counterparts, who are angry at the impact of strikes on a group formed via a merger in 2004. The concerns entered the political arena when Dutch ministers warned Janaillac about pandering to the French arm’s powerful pilot lobby at the expense of growth at KLM.
Demand in French markets is also still struggling to recover from terrorist attacks spanning Paris to the Mediterranean, with Asian tour groups in particular still staying away.
Passenger traffic at Air France-KLM -- the number of passengers carried times the distance flown -- increased by 2 percent in 2016 to 261 billion revenue passenger kilometers. The group has ranked No. 1 in Europe by that measure since it was formed, though British Airways owner IAG SA and Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG have been narrowing the gap and are due to report figures later this week.
Air France-KLM closed down 1.6 percent in Paris.