CEO: Air France-KLM takes planet health very seriously

June 7, 2023  –SCHIPHOL – Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith stressed that the airline group takes the health of the planet very seriously at the annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday. He was responding to questions about Air France-KLM’s sustainability plans, which several shareholders had questioned. 

One of the questions was asked on behalf of environmental organization FossielVrij. The person wondered why Air France-KLM’s growth plans were discussed during the meeting, while its planes pollute the climate. “Continuing on this path leads to loss, ultimately to the loss of all life on Earth.” Instead, the airline group should “finally admit” that its business model is anything but sustainable. 

But according to Smith, the idea of not flying at all is out of the question. “That would be negative for all our stakeholders; that would not benefit anyone,” he said. But “steps must certainly be taken” to reduce the impact on the climate, even though Air France-KLM is already ahead of other major airlines, Smith claimed. 

Smith said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency on Monday that Air France-KLM will replace more outdated longer-distance aircraft with more fuel-efficient aircraft. Replacements are expected to continue past 2025. 

Another reproach during questioning suggested that Air France-KLM does not comply with the agreements in the Paris Climate Agreement. KLM’s top executive, Marjan Rintel, did not agree, although she stated that the airline should reduce carbon emissions even faster. “But our reduction plans are in line with the goals of the Paris agreement,” emphasized Rintel. She said that sticking to those plans would keep global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” and said her claims are also stated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which assesses and monitors companies’ CO2 reduction targets based on climate science. 

Peer de Rijk, of environmental activist group Milieudefensie, accused Rintel of “deliberately greenwashing.” With the airline’s goal of emitting 30 percent less carbon dioxide in 2030 compared to 2019, “the Paris Climate Agreement is nowhere near being met,” said De Rijk. According to Milieudefensie, this should be a 45 percent reduction. 

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