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FRANCE IN FOCUS

Travel chaos: Air France pilots take industrial action

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Air France-KLM Pilots opt to continue strike

Video by Marian HENBEST

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-17

The pilots, protesting planned retirement age reforms, rejected a weekend proposal to break off the strike, which is due to end at midnight on Monday. Up to 35 percent of long-haul Air France-KLM flights have been cancelled.


   
French pilots voted Saturday to press ahead with a strike which has severely hit flag carrier Air France, the head of their main union told AFP, ensuring further disruption.
   
SNPL president Jocelyn Smykowski said that "an overwhelming majority" of 65 percent of members of the union's council had backed continuing the strike until midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday.
   
Air France management said cancellations were in line with expectations at around 30 to 35 percent of long-haul flights and half of all other flights.
   
It expects the picture to be broadly similar Sunday.
   
Flights due to take off from Terminal 2F at Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport for Beirut, Belgrade, Bologna, Copenhagen and Zagreb as well as the French cities of Lyon, Nantes, Nice and Toulouse, were flagged as "cancelled" on passenger information screens.
   
While most flights had been cancelled in advance, some were pulled at the last minute, including services to Nouakchott, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo.
   
Among the long-haul flights due to take off from Terminal 2E, those bound for the United States were hardest hit.
   
Flights to Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle were all cancelled. Services to Washington, Dakar and Moscow were also cancelled as a precaution.
   
The pilots oppose proposed new rules to come into effect in 2010 that would end the current requirement for them to retire at 60, forcing them to work until the age of 65.
   
They argue passenger saftey would be put at risk and and prospects for young pilots damaged.
   
Air France said 40 percent of its pilots were taking part in the industrial action, the same proportion as Friday, but the main pilots' union claimed the number was as high as 70 percent, 10 percent lower than the day before.
   
An aide to French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said he considered the continuation of the strike "incomprehensible and unjustified."
   
On Friday the government modified its proposals to allow retirement at 60 if so wished and some union leaders thought the concession would be enough to have the strike called off. But two thirds of council members voted to extend it.  
   
Another, smaller union said the government was throwing "dust in the pilots' eyes".
   
A further problem awaits in the form of pension reforms seen as favouring the pilots but rejected by cabin staff who say they will go on strike from December 5 to 9.

Date created : 2008-11-16

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