KLM’s chief operating officer departs for British Airways amid turbulent times

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KLM is looking for a new chief operating officer amidst turbulent times for the aviation industry after René de Groot said he was leaving for a role at British Airways. 

The Dutch flag carrier announced on July 6, 2022 that de Groot was stepping down on July 15 after 32 years with KLM, including as a pilot. De Groot was appointed COO at KLM in November 2014.   

“After 32 fantastic years at KLM, I have decided to spread my wings and continue my career at British Airways as Chief Operating Officer,” de Groot said in a press release. “I realise that my departure comes at a turbulent time for KLM, but I leave the airline in the knowledge that the road to recovery has begun and that the organisation will be able to do so despite the continuing challenges.” 

KLM said it had started the process to find a new COO and hoped to fill the vacancy quickly.  

“Having first joined KLM in 1990, René has a long track record at KLM. He has contributed enormously to KLM, both in his role as a commercial pilot and later in management, and over the last eight years as COO and statutory Managing Director,” Cees ‘t Hart – Chairman of the KLM Supervisory Board, commented in the statement. “We would like to thank him very much for his unswerving commitment and wish him all the very best in his new role.” 

The move comes a few days after Marjan Rintel took the helm of KLM, succeeding Pieter Elbers on July 1, 2022.  

Airlines in Europe are currently struggling to cope with the rebound in travel demand from the pandemic, with staff shortages across the industry. Amsterdam Schiphol airport, KLM’s home base, has been among the worst hit, with images of long lines of people stretching out of the terminal building. 

Management changes are underway at other airlines too, with easyJet’s COO also stepping down this week amidst flight delays and cancellations.  


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