Dutch government promises 2bn to 4bn euros to aid KLM: minister

PARIS (AP) — Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said Friday the government will provide 2-4 billion euros ($2.16-4.32 billion) to help flag carrier KLM survive the devastating impact on its operations of the coronavirus crisis.

Hoekstra said the money would likely be in the form of guarantees and loans to the carrier that has seen most of its planes grounded since the virus began its march around the globe.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

The French government announced a “historic” 7-billion-euro ($7.6-billion) aid package Friday to rescue Air France, whose planes have been largely grounded by virus lockdowns around the world.

The Dutch government also was expected to announce an aid package for Air France’s Dutch partner carrier, KLM. Airlines around the world are collapsing or seeking government bailouts, as the past several weeks of travel restrictions have upended their entire industry.

The deal reached Friday will include 3 billion euros in direct loans from the French state and a 4-billion-euro bank loan guaranteed by the state, Air France said in a statement.

Speaking on national television TF1, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the aid was necessary to “save our national airline.” He said the government is not currently considering nationalizing Air France.

In exchange for the bailout, Le Maire said the government would set conditions of profitability and more environmentally sustainable, less polluting policies.

Air France-KLM Chief Executive Ben Smith hailed the “unparalleled vote of confidence” from the government, which is the airline's largest single shareholder.

The company would have run out of cash “in the very near future” without this help, he said. He promised the company would “rethink our model immediately" to stay competitive once virus confinement measures start allowing more air travel.

The French government is also considering a 5-billion-euro loan guarantee for carmaker Renault, Le Maire said.

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