Turbulence ahead for Air France passengers as strike threat looms large

Air France passengers face the possibility of more travel headaches after the hardline CGT union has warned that there is a "good chance" there will be further strikes in the near future.

Turbulence ahead for Air France passengers as strike threat looms large
Photo: AFP
It's likely that Air France passengers will face more travel headaches in the months ahead — at least that's if the words of the CGT union representative for Air France Vincent Salles are anything to go by. 
According to Salles, the airline's staff are “up in arms, angry and tired of being taken for idiots”. 
The words came as the first meeting between the nine unions representing Air France since the resignation of the airline's former CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac is set to take place.
Janaillac's exit in May led to a hiatus in the strikes.
“We will ask ourselves the question of whether to restart the strike or not. There is a good chance that this will be the case,” Salles told franceinfo
Air France recently appointed its first non-French CEO, Canadian Benjamin Smith — currently Air Canada's number two — which was met with outrage by the unions including the CGT. 
It was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor,” said a statement from nine out of 10 Air France unions on August 17th.
The CGT has said it is “angry” about the way the appointment of Smith, with Salles denouncing the “Anglo Saxon choice” who he said is “known for having created low cost growth at the expense of the parent company, Air Canada.”
But it could also be Smith's proposed salary — reported to be several times higher than that of Janaillac —  which will undermine goodwill towards him among employees, who have suffered years of cutbacks and job losses.
Air France personnel are demanding a six percent salary increase, with unions arguing the airline should share the wealth with its staff after strong results in 2017.
But management insists it cannot offer higher salaries without jeopardising growth in an intensely competitive sector.
The 15 days of strikes in the spring saw profits nosedive by a whopping €335 million at Air France-KLM in the second quarter but higher passenger numbers meant the group stayed in the black.
'Inconceivable': Air France appoints its first non-French boss

Member comments

  1. Exactly why I’ve sworn off Air France for international flight. I like the airline, but I detest the strikes.

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Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.