Skift Take

Air France-KLM continues to lead on female leadership in the airline industry. Rail executive Marjan Rintel will become KLM's first female CEO when she succeeds outgoing Pieter Elbers in July.

The head of the Netherlands passenger rail operator NS, Marjan Rintel, will takeover as KLM’s new CEO on July 1. Rintel takes over from Pieter Elbers when she will join Anne Rigail as one of the few female CEOs in the airline industry.

The board of Air France-KLM, which owns both airlines plus the discounter Transavia, also extended Ben Smith‘s mandate as CEO of the group for another five year term, or through 2027.

But it is the appointment of Rintel that stands out. The airline industry has long been dominated by male leaders. Only 6 per of global airline CEOs are women, according to a survey by industry trade group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier in March. And though senior leadership ranks the percentage only goes as high as 13 percent except for human resources directors, of which 40 percent are women.

IATA is pushing the airline industry to fill 25 percent of leadership position with women by 2025 in an initiative dubbed “25by2025.”

The Air France-KLM board cited Rintel’s “knowledge of the group” — she worked for the group, including as head of hub operations for KLM, prior to joining NS in 2014 — and her “leadership qualities” in its decision. She is also the first female CEO of KLM.

“With her broad managerial, commercial and operational experience, we are bringing in someone who is close to the staff and who, together with her team, will continue to shape the future of KLM as a customer-focused, sustainable and financially healthy company,” KLM Supervisory Board Chairman Cees ‘t Hart said.

Rintel will takeover a KLM that is well positioned to succeed in the post-pandemic market. The airline, along with the entire Air France-KLM group, cut costs dramatically during the crisis and now benefits from strong travel demand as markets reopen. She will also lead KLM’s shift to an Airbus narrowbody fleet from Boeing jets that is part of its carbon emissions reduction program. However, Rintel will also face renewed competition from other airlines, some of which have named KLM’s Amsterdam Schiphol hub as a key market for growth in the recovery.

“Aviation is in times of great and complex challenges,” said Rintel. “I am of the opinion that an indigenous Dutch company like KLM, just like NS, has a major role to play in these social and economic challenges. Fulfilling that role successfully will be my priority from day one.”

Elbers, who has led KLM since 2014, will step down as CEO when Rintel starts on July 1 but will continue with the airline for an unidentified transition period.

November 16, 2022
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Tags: air france-klm, execs, klm

Photo credit: KLM has appointed Marjan Rintel as its new CEO. KLM