Air France customers could face significant disruption to their travel plans from Monday with the French flag carrier’s pilots threatening to hold a week-long strike over the airline’s plans to expand its low-budget flight offering.
Air France management on Friday said it had cancelled a meeting with unions scheduled for the afternoon, but said that negotiations are ongoing and will continue over the weekend in a bid to avoid the strike, set to last until Monday, September 22.
If the strike goes ahead, it could cost the loss-making airline as much as €15 million a day depending on how many pilots walk out, Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey has warned.
"A strike that would force the cancellation of, say, 50 percent of flights, we would be talking about a cost of between €10 million to €15 million a day," he told French radio station Radio Classique last week.
However, the airline and its passengers will not know just how many flights will be affected until Saturday, the deadline for pilots to inform the company if they plan to join the strike.
Air France is offering customers the option to change their flight tickets to avoid the strike, or to receive a flight voucher valid for one year on Air France and KLM services.
Budget airline fears
The industrial action, called by France’s main pilots’ union the SNLP, is a result of plans by Air France’s parent company Air France-KLM to expand its low-cost offerings to passengers, mainly through its Transavia budget airline, as it seeks to compete with the likes of easyjet, Ryanair and others.
Pilots have said they have been left out of discussions over the new strategy – the full details of which were revealed by the company on Thursday and include plans to invest 1 billion euros in Transavia and increase the budget brand’s fleet from 14 to 37 planes.
Unions are unhappy in particular over contracts being offered to new Transavia pilots, which they say should come with the same pay and benefits as those afforded to Air France pilots, something the company has ruled out.
“It’s not my wish that we apply Air France conditions and contracts to Transavia,” Air France-KLM CEO Alexandre de Juniac told reports Thursday.
The growth of Transavia would help “create jobs for pilots at air hostesses and stewards, jobs on the ground, in France”, he argued, but stressed that no Air France pilots would be forced to transfer to Transavia.
"There will be opportunities for Air France pilots, especially those who want to become captains,” he said. “If they want to come, they are welcome. If they don’t, they can remain at Air France where not one line of their contract will be changed.”
Date created : 2014-09-12