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Koninklijke Luchtvaartmaatschappij
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Quick Facts
TypePrivate, limited public tradable
Headquarters (Benelux Organization)Amstelveen, Netherlands
Year of Origin1919
Emissions (All Scopes)17,3 Megatons of CO2 (2019)
NCI assessmentLow
Total Revenue11,075 billion euro (2019)
Stock ExchangeEuronext Paris & Amsterdam (Air France-KLM)
Key People
  • Pieter Elbers (CEO)
  • Erik Swelheim (CFO)
  • René de Groot (COO)
Number of Employees32.667
  • Transavia
  • Martinair
  • KLM itself is a subsidiary of Air France-KLM

Royal Dutch Airlines, stylized as KLM, was founded in 1919 and is active in cargo and passenger transport.[1] KLM offers a network of 92 European and 70 intercontinental destinations. Pre-corona (2019), KLM transported 34,1 million passengers and 62,1000 tons of cargo.[2] The headquarter of KLM is located in Amstelveen.[3] In 2020, KLM Group employed 32,667 people.[4] KLM claims to be the largest private employer in the Netherlands.[5] In 2020, KLM’s revenue was 5,120 billion euro’s, sharply contrasting to 11,075 billion in 2019.[6] KLM’s made a loss of 1,546 billion euro’s in 2020, contrasting to a 0,449 billion euro profit in 2019.[7] Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are the biggest European Airline Group since 2004.[8] The balance sheet value of KLM is 10,447 billion in 2020. In 2019 this was 11,771 billion.[9]

Company Structure

Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (“KLM”) is a non-listed, limited liability company incorporated under Dutch law. Supervision and management of KLM are structured in accordance with the two-tier model, meaning a Board of Managing Directors supervised by a Supervisory Board.[10]

KLM is a subsidiary of a holding company it shares with Air France, AIR FRANCE KLM S.A.[11] This holding company has a board of directors of 19 members, of which five are Dutch. One of those five is appointed upon nomination of the Dutch government, and two upon nomination by the KLM supervisory board. One member is the chairman of the KLM Supervisory Board. The fifth joined as Director representing employees. The KLM CEO is a permanent supervisor to the Board meetings.[12]

Since the merger of KLM and Air France in 2004, the separate KLM shares have disappeared from the stock market and were replaced by Air France-KLM shares.[13] AIR FRANCE KLM (the holding company) holds all KLM priority shares, and a proportion of the common shares that together make up 49 percent voting rights in KLM. Also it holds depository receipts issued by Stichting Administratiekantoor KLM and Stichting Administratiekantoor Cumulatief Preferente Aandelen C, which holds different kinds of preference shares. These preference shares do hold voting rights, but no economic rights. The Dutch Government directly holds cumulative preference shares A, of which the depository receipts are held by Stichting Administratiekantoor KLM, corresponding to 5.92 percent of the voting rights in the KLM shareholder meeting.[14] In 2019, the Dutch Government bought 14 percent of Air France-KLM shares on the stock exchange in order to level the influence of the French State on Air France-KLM (both around 14 percent of shares).[15][16]

However, since the French government gave support to Air-France KLM for a large part in the form of buying shares during the corona pandemic, their share has risen to about 30 percent of voting rights, whereas the Dutch share has shrunk to 9.3 percent.[17]

Board of Directors

Executive Board[18]
Name Function Remuneration x1000 EUR
Pieter Elbers[19] Chief Executive Officer 722
René de Groot[20] Chief Operations Officer 495
Erik Swelheim Chief Financial Officer 474

Together they earned 1.7 million euro’s in 2020, in contrast to 2.8 million in 2019. This reduction has to do with voluntary pay-cuts due to the corona-situation, as well as conditions by the Dutch Government to the state loans to KLM during Covid-times.[21]

Executive Team

Executive Team[22]
Name Function
Barbara van Koppen General Council & Corporate Center
Ton Dortmans Engineering & Maintenance
Jacomijn Dijkstra Transformation
Boet Kreiken Customer Experience
Paul Terstegge Inflight Service
Ralph Albus Chief of Staff
Bas Gerressen KLM Netherlands
Vincent van Hooff Flight Operations
Aart Slagt Chief information officer & information systems
Adriaan de Heijer KLM Cargo
Marian Kartman HR & Industrial Services

There is no information available on the individual remuneration of the executive team.

Supervisory Board

Supervisory Board[23]
Name Function Remuneration x1000 EUR
Cees 't Hart Chair 38,542
Francois Enaud Vice-chair 24,408
Mary de Gaay Fortman Member 24,908
Jan Kees de Jager Member 26,008
Christian Nibourel Member 15,164
Fleur Pellerin Member 26,008
Francois Riolacci Member 28,806
Benjamin Smith Member 0
Janine Vos Member 23,408

The Dutch Government appointed a State Agent to monitor the execution of KLM’s restructuring plan as a condition to the Covid-loans KLM received. This Agent can attend all meetings of the supervisory Board and the Audit Committee, but is not part of this supervisory Board.[24]


The external accountant of KLM is KPMG Accountants N.V. and Deloitte Accountants B.V.[25]

In KLM's 2021 audit report, both accountancies state that they are uncertain about "KLM's ability to continue as a going concern".[26] This is caused by the uncertainties relating to KLM's recovery and solvency position. Despite assessing multiple (presumed) risks concerning fraud and non-compliance with laws and regulations, neither accountancies make any mention of global warming as a long-term risk for KLM's business model.

Main Activities

KLM offers a network of 92 European and 70 intercontinental destinations. Pre-corona (2019), KLM transported 34.1 million passengers and 62,1000 tonnes of cargo.[27]

KLM is partner in the so-called SkyTeam Alliance which offers 1,063 destinations in 173 countries.[28] KLM has eleven daughter companies, one jointly controlled entity and one financial asset.[29] Two subsidiaries are airlines: Transavia and Martinair. Transavia operates from Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam and transported about 9 million passenger in 2018.[30] KLM has merged with Air France in 2004, and works with different layers of operations consisting of Air France KLM-Group, Airlines and Core Activities.[31]


KLM received Royal status before it was officially founded, contrary to the official guidelines. In 2012, the royal status of KLM was prolonged for 25 years,[32] meaning that according to the Dutch State, KLM is prominent in its sector in the Netherlands, its governance is impeccable and the management is without any controversy.[33] In all of the individual tranches of NOW-support during corona times, KLM was the largest recipient with an estimated total of 1.7 billion euro’s.[34][35]

The Dutch state has always stressed the importance of the network of KLM for the Dutch economy. It did so when it bought for 744 million euro of KLM shares in 2019.[36][37] It also did so when explaining why the billions of state support for KLM during corona times were justified.[38] However, more and more research points out that the function of Schiphol as economical hub of the Netherlands, and with it the network of KLM, is largely overstated in terms of economical importance.[39][40] A research done by ESB, an important economic trade magazine states that Schiphol and KLM are more reliant on Amsterdam than that Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands is reliant on them.[41] The general conclusion seems to be that a less prominent Schiphol and KLM does not necessarily have negative economic impacts, the effects might very well be positive in the long-term.[42][43][44][45] It would however for sure have positive consequences for the climate, the government expenses and the neighboring villages surrounding Schiphol airport.

Paris Agreement until Today

KLM claims to be a sustainability leader in the airline industry since launching its Fly Responsibly initiative in 2019. KLM claims to have reduced its CO2-eq. emissions by 4 percent since 2005 and 31 percent per passenger per kilometer as per 2019.[46] These claims cannot be verified as over the base year 2005, KLM only reports emissions for the entirety of Air France-KLM, excluding its daughter companies and non CO2 potential warming effects.[47] From this data the initial emissions in 2005 cannot be calculated.

KLM plans to incentivize customers to offset their CO2 emissions through the CO2ZERO-program.[48] This may seem like a good solution to have customers carry part of the cost of their impact to the environment, but there are problems to it.[49][50]

  • A tree needs to survive a hundred years in order to be able to actually caption the carbon that is being ‘’offset’’;
  • The market for offset carbon is self-regulation, and therefore susceptible to abusive practices. The wages being paid to the people actually planting the trees are too low, even by local standards;
  • The rights of local people, who have traditionally accessed the forests where new trees are planted for plants, firewood and building materials are not taken into account;
  • Carbon stored in trees or biological carbon is not equivalent to fossil carbon, as it will be released back into the atmosphere through fire, natural decay or harvesting;
  • On many places where western organizations plant trees, earlier destroyed forests are rebuild. It is questionable to state these are ‘’extra’’ trees that store carbon from western industries. In the first place, they store carbon that was released by the earlier destroying of the forest.

So far, the offsetting of carbon seems nothing more than an administrative trick.

KLM wants to be the launch customer of Europe’s first SAF (Sustainable Aircraft Fuel) plant, that will be developed within the Netherlands as announced in 2019. KLM commits itself to use 14 percent SAF of the total volume used in the Netherlands by 2030.[51] Besides KLM’s commitment, it has also been one of the conditions for state loans during the COVID period.[52]

Financial Results since 2015

In this table you can see the financial situation of KLM since 2015. Yearly results are very volatile.

Financial situation
Year Revenue Profit (loss) Dividend
2015[53] 9.9 billion EUR 54 million EUR 0 EUR[54]
2016[55] 9.8 billion EUR 519 million EUR 16.8 million EUR[56]
2017[57] 10,34 billion EUR (703) million EUR 0 EUR[58]
2018[59] 10.96 billion EUR 573 million EUR 18,5 million EUR[60]
2019[61] 11 billion EUR 449 million EUR 19.4 million EUR[62]
2020[63] 5.12 billion EUR (1.55) billion EUR 0 EUR[64]
2021[65] 6.07 billion EUR (1.26) billion EUR 0 EUR[65]

In addition to these numbers, it must be noted that ever since its inception, KLM hardly made a profit. During times of hardship, it has always been the Dutch state, and therefore taxpayers, that have saved KLM with monetary injections.[66]

Current Emissions

In their annual reports, all KLM emissions goals are mentioned in percentages. Nowhere in the annual report are emissions mentioned in hard numbers. There is only limited data on KLM emissions publicly available. KLM only has a duty to report emissions of intra-EEA flights, as laid out by the provisions of the EU ETS. Emissions from flights to and from destinations outside Europe are not covered by the EU ETS and so are not reported.[67] Due to the limited available data it is not possible to calculate the amount of emissions of KLM in Dutch airspace.

In the numbers KLM reports, the global warming effect of non CO2 high altitude emissions are not reported. These non CO2-effects, such as persistent contrails, aviation induced cirrus and NOx derivatives contribute significantly more to global heating than aviation CO2 emissions. Recent studies conclude that, because of the non CO2 climate effects, today's total climate impact of aviation is about three times greater than the impact of CO2 alone.[68][69]

The numbers in the following table exclude daughter companies as Transavia, Martinair and cargo transport.[70]

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Data
Year A: Grams CO2 p.p.p.km[71] B: Revenue Passenger km (millions)[72] C: Total In Flight CO2 emission reported (megaton) D: Climate COntribution non CO2-effects (twice C)[73] F:Total CO2-eq. emissions (C+D)
2015 86 93,228 8,0 16,0 24,0
2016 84 97,737 8,2 16,4 24,6
2017 82 103,487 8,5 17 25,5
2018 80 107,676 8,6 12,2 25,8
2019 79 109,476 8,6 17,2 25,8
2020 101 33,873 3,4 6,8 10,2
2021 40,912[74]

According to KLM-Air France, 99,7% of the total emissions of Air-France or KLM are direct scope 1 emissions.[75] According to the greenhouse gas protocol, KLM should include emissions derived from the combustion of fossil fuels to produce electricity that is consumed in a vehicle in its scope 2 report. In its scope 3 report it should at least include:[76]

  • Category 4: upstream transportation and distribution;
  • Category 6: business travel;
  • Category 7: employee commuting;
  • Category 9: downstream transportation and distribution.

Air France-KLM admits that these emissions occur in their operations.[77] Air France-KLM claims to report 100 percent of its scope 1 & 2 emissions and emissions from upstream phase of kerosene production (scope 3). This is however only done on group-basis, and not separately for KLM operations.[78]

In its own emission reports, KLM does not take into account the upstream production and transport of kerosine. To calculate this, one needs to assess KLM's yearly usage of kerosine and the attributed CO2 emissions in producing said kerosene. So:

  • IN 2018, KLM's total amount of passenger kilometers was 107,676 million;
  • 1 liter of kerosene per 36 passenger kilometers;[79]
  • 1 liter of kerosene weighs 0.8 kg;[80]
  • The production and delivery of 1 kilo of kerosene results in 0,5 kg CO2-emission;[81]
  • So: the total amount of passenger kilometers (107,676) divided by the amount of kilometers made with one liter of kerosene (36) means that a total of 2,991 million liters of fuel has been used in 2018. As mentioned, one liter of kerosene weighs 0,8 kg, hence the total amount of kerosene (2,991) times the weight per liter (0.8) totals to 2,393 million kg kerosene. The production and delivery per kilo results in 0.5 kg CO2 emissions. Thus, 2,393 million kg of kerosene times the amount of CO2 emissions released to produce and deliver it (0.5 kg) results in a total of 1,196 million kg CO2 being released. Rounded off, this results in 1,2 Mt.

These emissions for production and delivery should be added to the scope 1 & 2 emissions. The climate impact of the emissions attributable to KLM are therefore 25,8 + 1,2 = 27 Mt CO2e.

Climate Policy and Plans

In 2021 KLM, together with Air France, announced that it would strive to achieve Net Zero by 2050 under the IATA umbrella.[82] KLM’s ambition is to have zero emissions from ground operations by 2030. 62 percent of the ground equipment is already electric.[83] However, this covers only a minimal portions of the total emissions. KLM cooperates with the Dutch government and NS to investigate how more short flights can be replaced by high-speed trains. The company has already replaced one of the five daily flights to Brussels with a train journey.[84]

KLM claims to have reduced absolute emissions numbers by 4 percent since 2005 and by 31 percent per passenger per kilometer as per 2019.[85] As mentioned before, these absolute numbers cannot be verified. KLM’s goals for 2030 are to reduce total emissions from flight operations by 15 percent and emissions per passenger per kilometer by 50 percent.[86] They reiterate these goals in their 2021 annual report.[87] It cannot be calculated what this means in absolute numbers, but from the emission data since 2015 the conclusion can be drawn that KLM is not on track to meet these targets. KLM has not published a plan or pathway to meet these targets, except for the following statement:

KLM plans to reach its targets by fleets renewal, improved procedures, engagement, support of research and cooperation with authorities.[88]

KLM strives to create sustainable growth on Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and gain access to every market that complements and increases the quality of its network.[89] It is hard to see how this aligns with the reduction targets.

NewClimate Institute (NCI) Report

KLM scores moderately on transparency and low on integrity.[90]

KLM discloses its scope 1 emissions, which in their case account for about 80% of reported emissions, as well market-based scope 2 emissions, and selected scope 3 emissions. However, KLM does not disclose non-CO2 climate forcers such as NOx, despite these accounting for an estimate of two-thirds of the sector's net radiative forcing impact. KLM also disregards the level of emissions that occur on the other half of scope 3 emissions, such as during the production of airplanes. Their standing reduction target for 2030 however only equals a reduction of 10% in CO2 emissions across their value chains, as they're excluding both scope 2 emissions, and downstream scope 3 emissions. This decrease is not big enough to meet the standards set by the IEA Net Zero Roadmap of 2021, and the CAT's pathway.

Despite committing to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, vital details specifying the real ambition of these targets are unavailable. Particularly, it is unclear whether KLM will rely on offsetting their emissions, or whether it will drastically reduce them, and if non-CO2 emissions are covered. KLM also continues to lobby against effective climate regulations. Additionally, KLM fosters a significant amount of hope in sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), despite these making up less than 1% of KLM’s total fuel consumption, and despite the fact that the creation of SAFs is not environmentally sound (yet). KLM’s “compensation” program CO2ZERO is also misleading and in reality, the financed forestry project is not a credible equivalent to emissions reductions.

Due Diligence

Due Diligence

KLM employers strike

In April, KLM's ground crew kickstarted a strike. They did this to vocalize their discontents with their low hourly wage, the work instability caused by competing employment agencies, the uncertain working contracts and the work pressure.[91] In total, this strike cost KLM millions.[92] It is uncertain still whether their demands will be met.

Scandals and controversies

KLM lobbies against Fitfor55 legislation

On July 14th 2021, the European Commission presented its Fitfor55 package, most commonly known as the Green Deal. In a press release, KLM stated that "a number of these proposals will affect KLM directly and the airline industry as a whole".[93] Despite that, KLM argued to "wholeheartedly support the EU's goals of becoming the first continent to achieve climate neutrality by 2020".

In April 2022, however, the NGO Transport & Environment revealed KLM-AF lobbying efforts to reduce the impact of the European Fitfor55 legislation.[94] If successful, the lobbying effort of KLM would significantly reduce their obligations to stop dangerous climate change.

KLM misleads its clients regarding CO2-compensation

According to in-depth journalistic research conducted by platform Follow the Money, KLM misleads its clients and passengers when it comes to CO2-compensation.[95] In short, KLM's previous slogan 'be a hero, fly CO2 zero', made passengers believe that they could compensate for the CO2 emissions released during their own flight by contributing to the construction of forests in Panama. In reality, the money dedicated to this project is far from enough to compensate for the amount of CO2. Additionally, this 'solution' disregards the environmental burden of water vapor, which is also released during flying. Hence, KLM's slogan is misleading and misrepresentative of the dire environmental strain that flying has on the environment; one that cannot simply solved by planting trees in Panama.


KLM is the one of the major European players in aviation. The corona crisis has shown the vulnerability and lack of sustainability of the business models of players like KLM. KLM is partly French, partly Dutch, and partly government owned.

KLM mentions their emission data only in relative numbers, but our calculations show that the numbers are enormous. KLM makes no mention of non-CO2 climate effects, while in aviation they can amount up to three times as much as CO2 effects. Some of the 2030 goals of KLM are of a very small scope, for example electrifying ground equipment. Others are nearly impossible to reach, if seen in the perspective of historical accomplishments. The reduction goals KLM has set are directly copied from the conditions to the state loans KLM received during corona times.

A more proactive stance may be expected from KLM. In their reports they don’t seem to be taking sustainability and climate change too serious, seen as they would like to grow their destinations and tap into untapped markets. Without a clear reduction plan, this is not possible considering their current emissions.


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