Dutch Back Air France-KLM Bailout After Pilots Agree Wage Deal

The Netherlands has given final approval to a 3.4 billion-euro ($4 billion) bailout for the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM after pilots at the struggling carrier agreed to wage caps that could last for five years.

The stock rose Wednesday after Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the money will be granted following the deal between the VNV cockpit union and KLM to secure cost cuts for the duration of the rescue package.

The move reverses a decision on Saturday to withhold KLM’s remaining tranche of aid after its pilots failed to join other labor groups in extending a moratorium on bonuses and raises beyond 2022. The government had tied the funds to a 15% cost reduction at KLM to boost profitability and competitiveness as the coronavirus pandemic roils the air-transport industry.

Air France-KLM shares traded 1.6% higher as of 9:24 a.m. in Paris following Hoekstra’s statement late Tuesday, paring the stock’s decline this year to 68%.

KLM has so far drawn down 942 million euros from the Dutch loan and credit facility. France has been faster in getting its own 7 billion-euro rescue package to the Air France division, also with some strings.

The Dutch tussle came at a sensitive time for Air France-KLM, with France and the Netherlands, the group’s biggest shareholders, preparing for critical talks on further bolstering its weakened finances through a recapitalization.

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has said that Air France-KLM’s future as a combined company will be put to the test during the negotiations.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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