The CEO of KLM, Marjan Rintel, is encouraging people to travel by train rather than by plane for short distances, and believes the airline sector should stop viewing rail as a competitor. Rintel is following the same rationale as that of the French government, which has banned short air links (less than 2.5 hours) in France if there is an alternative by train. The decree has been validated by the EU.
“If you are serious about achieving your sustainability goals, the train is not a competitor. We have to work together,” said the KLM CEO in an interview with the Financial Times. She even adds that to connect its two bases, Amsterdam (KLM) and Paris (Air France), she only travels by train.
Air France had already agreed with the French government in 2020 to limit domestic routes in exchange for financial aid during the pandemic. The agreement is now enshrined in a bill and has been validated by the EU.
For its part, the Dutch government has announced its intention to reduce the number of flights departing from Schiphol airport by more than 10%, with short-haul flights in mind. By November 2023, only 440,000 flight movements per year will be allowed, compared to 500,000 today. KLM said at the time that “if the company had to give up slots, it would have to give up its smaller aircraft.”
If you have a good alternative, you should really use it.Marjan Rintel, CEO of KLM-Air France
Facilitating the purchase of air and/or train tickets in a single booking seems to be in line with these changes. Marja Rintel has therefore instructed her teams to discuss with the Dutch and French railway companies to facilitate transfers, including luggage. Rintel is familiar with rail travel as ex-CEO of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS).
The reduction of CO2 emissions seems to be at the top of Rintel’s agenda. A few days ago, she pleaded with the EU to create a single European airspace, which she believes would allow European aviation to reduce its emissions by 6 to 10% through fewer in-flight bypasses.
The vision of Rintel for the company goes beyond reducing carbon emissions linked to commercial air travel. In conversation with Airline Weekly, she talked about more diversity within the company and within the airline industry in general. Of all the airlines worldwide, only a handful have a woman at the top.
“A change is taking place in Europe and the Netherlands when it comes to female leadership,” she said. “For every position and every shortlist, there has to be at least one woman on the list. We talk about more diversity every day, not just about genders, but about diversity in general. It’s at the top of my to-do list.”
The Netherlands is making substantial progress. In 2020, the country reached another milestone: 90% of the world’s major listed companies then had at least one woman in the senior management team. In 2017, that was only two-thirds.