Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra has put his support behind KLM CEO Pieter Elbers, amid reports that Air France-KLM may not renew his contract.

A Ministry of Finance spokesperson confirmed to ATW that Hoekstra sent a letter to KLM’s board last week to express support for Elbers continuing in his current role.

During a meeting with French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Feb. 11, a spokesperson said Hoekstra raised the subject of Air France-KLM, but this was “separate” from the letter; details of their discussion have not been disclosed.

According to reports in the Dutch press, senior KLM managers wrote a letter to the Air France-KLM board on Feb. 8 warning that if Elbers is removed from his role, the Amsterdam Schiphol-based carrier could face industrial action from employees.

Elbers is nearing the end of his contract at KLM. French and Dutch media reports suggest tensions between the Dutchman and the recently appointed Air France-KLM Group CEO Benjamin Smith, who has already made a number of changes since assuming the role in September.

Full-year traffic figures released last month by Air France-KLM showed a continued discord between the carriers’ individual performances, with the smaller Dutch unit experiencing the strongest growth and the French arm’s figures suffering as a result of strikes and anti-government protests.

Air France-KLM’s 3Q financial results, released in October 2018, also highlighted the difference in fortunes between the Dutch and French carriers. KLM posted a €573 million ($665 million) operating profit for the three-month period ended Sept. 30, 2018, compared with the €493 million operating result reported by Air France.

Air France-KLM is scheduled to release its full-year financial results Feb. 20 and Elbers is listed as being part of the presentation event, alongside Air France CEO Anne Rigail. It is understood that Elbers’ fate could become clear when the results are announced.

KLM declined to comment on the issue.

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com