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Air France-KLM to cut up to 3,000 jobs by 2011

Europe's largest carrier has announced plans to shed up to 3,000 jobs over the next two years to make up for a sharp decline in traffic. The group has already cut 2,400 jobs over the financial year 2008-2009 to the end of March.

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AFP - Air France said on Wednesday it would cut up to 3,000 jobs over the next two years as the European airline giant feels the pinch following a sharp decline in traffic due to the global economic crisis.

"We should reduce our staff by 2,500 to 3,000 in the next two financial years," a spokeswoman told AFP, adding there would be no forced redundancies. The cuts come on top of some 1,000 jobs already shed in the past 12 months.

The spokeswoman said there would be money available to employees who want to pursue other projects outside the company and that airline staff would be encouraged to take sabbaticals as well as to bring forward their retirement.

Cyril Jouan, a representative of the CFDT trade union, said he was "reassured" that the cuts would be voluntary. "We sense the company is ready to adapt to this difficult period by keeping the maximum number of jobs," he said.

Air France said in February that in the financial year to March, just ended, it had reduced its workforce by 1,000 to 1,200 people by not replacing all of those who retired, by not recruiting and by terminating temporary contracts.

Air France-KLM, Europe's biggest airline, includes Air France and Dutch carrier KLM. The group employs around 104,000 people and has been hit hard by the economic crisis that has affected much of the global airline industry.

In the last quarter of 2008, Air France-KLM reported losses amounting to 194 million euros (258 million dollars). Earlier this month, the airline reported that passenger traffic fell by 9.8 percent in March from February.

The group said earlier that its financial year, which began in April, was unfolding "in a context of unprecedented difficulty" because of an uncertain economic environment and the volatility of currency values and oil prices.

It also said there had been a "sharp deterioration" in economic conditions.

Last month, Air France-KLM said it was requesting delays in the delivery of around 10 aircraft because of financial difficulties. The company is also putting off a deal on cargo flights with Chinese carrier China Southern.

Air France-KLM now owns a 25-percent stake in ailing Italian carrier Alitalia and is bidding to buy the Czech state's majority share of CSA Czech Airlines but lost out to Lufthansa in the sale of Austrian Airlines last year.

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