Air France resumes flights after pilots call off strike

Air France Boeing 777-300ER Taking Off-Paine Field
Air France Boeing 777-3

Air France will resume the majority of flights again today, following the end of a two-week pilot’s union strike on September 28.
The airline’s schedule was severely disrupted during the strikes with up to 60 per cent of flights cancelled, causing an estimated loss of up to €300m (£233) for the company. This figure doesn’t yet account for passenger compensation.

The strike was initiated following Air France’s proposed plans to expand its budget airline division, Transavia. Air France claim that they are under increased pressure to expand the cheap flight options, in order to align with a shift in consumer demand. However, pilots feared that the plans will lower their pay and working conditions.
Despite lengthy negotiations between the pilot unions and Air France over the past 24 hours, including 15 hours of talks on Saturday, no agreement has yet been reached.
However, a strike end has been decided among the union and pilots are returning to work. The airline plans for almost all of medium haul flights and more than 90 per cent of its long-haul flights to be operating as normal today.

Due to the lengthy nature of these strikes, Air France is warning customers that last minute changes and minor delays may still occur.
“As aircraft have not flown for several days, mandatory checks are required before operations resume. In addition, aircraft and crews must be repositioned at all Air France stations throughout the world and flight crews must be given their legal rest periods before carrying out return flights,” Air France said.


Turbulent times for European flag carriers as budget airlines take flight

Transavia Boeing 737-800
Transavia Boeing 737-800 (photo: Wikipedia)

Air France pilots are now into the second week of a strike over management plans to step up development of its budget Transavia unit where pilots are paid considerably less.
The strike has forced Europe’s second largest airline after Lufthansa to ground around half of its flights and is costing it €20 million per day, which Prime Minister Manuel Valls said yesterday “represents a real danger for Air France”. Air France-KLM has only recently recovered from a severe financial crisis at the end of 2011, thanks to a deep restructuring programme that has seen it reach pay and voluntary departure deals with employees. In the second quarter of this year it nearly tripled operating profit to €238 million but posted a small net loss of €6 million as it had to take a 106-million-euro write-down of assets in its freight division.

Low cost, high share

But that doesn’t mean clear skies ahead for Air France, as well as other traditional carriers, as budget airlines are relentlessly expanding their market share. “Low-cost airlines now represent between 25 and 45 per cent of air traffic in Europe, depending on the country,” said Didier Brechemier, an aviation expert at consultants Roland Berger. They are no longer minnows in the industry. Irish low-cost airline Ryanair, with a fleet of 300 Boeing 737 medium-haul aircraft, serves 186 airports in 30 European countries. Ryanair’s fleet is set to soon expand to 400, which would take it above Air France’s stable of 350 aircraft. Air France-KLM together have over 550 planes. British low-cost airline easyJet is also not far behind with a fleet of 226 Airbus A320 planes, carrying out more than 1,400 flights per day on average.

The low-cost model is changing how people fly.

Passengers are offered a low ticket price to be flown from one city to another, but many services previously included in the price must be paid for if desired, such as an on-board meal or a checked-in piece of luggage. The growth of low-cost airlines “has been facilitated and accelerated by the web which has cleared away the obscurity of prices,” said Jean-Pierre Nadir, the founder of the website which allows people to compare ticket prices. Many people seem willing to give up frills, and maybe a little hassle, to get lower prices, which budget airlines are able to offer as they also cut other costs, usually by employing fewer staff at lower wages.

They also tend to fly newer aircraft, and have ordered many next-generation aircraft which promise even greater fuel economy, putting more pressure on traditional carriers as fuel is one of the biggest costs for airlines. Low-cost airlines have recently turned up the pressure by trying to make inroads into the business travel segment, which has been a big money-spinner for Air France, Lufthansa and British Airways that they have guarded jealously. Ryanair has recently introduced flexible tickets and priority boarding, two aspects often important for business travellers.

Traditional carriers are being forced to adapt their business models.

“If they don’t, they could end up being forced out of (the short and medium-haul) segments of the market,” said Brechemier. Since they can’t beat low-cost airlines, traditional carriers seem intent on joining them. Air France’s intended expansion of Transavia is only following moves by British Airways and Lufthansa. British Airways first created its own budget airline Go Fly in 1998, later selling it to easyJet. But with its merger with Spain’s Iberia in 2011 to create the International Airlines Group, it also picked up the low-cost airline Veuling which has a fleet of 90 aircraft.

Air France-KLM now wants to expand Transavia in France, where it has had around only 10 of its roughly 40 aircraft based. Air France pilots, who can earn up to 250,000 euros a year, fear that the group will shift flights to Transavia and its lesser-paid pilots.

Air France model ‘crumbling’

They have so far rejected overtures by management, including an offer to postpone for several months the implementation of the Transavia expansion while discussions take place. “It is distressing to see these pilots clinging to the vestiges of a world that doesn’t exist anymore,” said’s Nadir. “It’s like they are refusing to see that the model under which barriers were erected to protect Air France is in the process of crumbling,” he said.

Philippe Jourdan, head of Promise Consulting, said the challenges facing Air France were the same as Lufthansa or British Airways, but the context was different.

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Air France Pilots’ Strike Threatens Flights for 2nd week


A pilots strike threatens to snarl Air France flights for a second week in a row as the pilots protest plans to beef up a low-cost unit of the company.

The strike has created headaches for thousands of Air France customers, grounding more than half of Air France’s entire flight schedule last week. The pilots announced on Friday (Sept. 19) that they planned to carry the labor action into this week, saying they would disrupt flights through Friday (Sept. 26).

The pilots union is upset at an Air France plan to move a large portion of its intra-Europe flying to Transavia, the low-cost unit of the Air France-KLM group.

Air France — which says the strike is costing it most than $19 million a day — apologized to customers, adding it would do the best it could to help customers.

“Our teams are fully mobilized and make their utmost to assist you and minimize the impact of this industrial action on your travel plans,” the airline says on its website.

The carrier also is allowing customers to make changes to their tickets – with some restrictions – at no charge.

The labor action has been one of the worst to hit Air France in recent years, something that The Associated Press says “reflects larger challenges for Europe’s airlines and European economies trying to maintain generous worker protections while allowing companies to adapt to evolving markets.”

Air France-KLM CEO Alexandre de Juniac on Monday proposed to delay the implementation of its Transavia plan in an offer the company hoped would end the strike.

But the offer did not appease pilots, who vowed to continue the strike.


Air France Pilots Warn to Extend Strike “indefinitely”


An Air France pilots union warned on Thursday that it could vote to extend a strike “indefinitely” if its demands are not met, as the airline was forced to cancel around 60 percent of its flights for the fourth day.

The pilots are carrying out a strike over Air France’s plans to expand the low-cost operations of its Transavia brand by setting up foreign bases as it seeks to fight back against fierce competition from budget carriers.

Jean-Louis Barber, head of the Air France section of the SNPL pilots union, told Le Monde newspaper it may vote to extend the strike beyond a previously set limit of Sept. 22.
“The CEO of Air France cannot run the company without his pilots,” Le Monde daily newspaper cited Barber as saying. Air France-KLM Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac said just 42 percent of flights would operate as pilots and management prepared for a new round of negotiations on Thursday. “I am asking the pilots: come on board with us,” Juniac told RMC radio earlier. “Negotiations are not over, we are starting again this afternoon.”

Later on Thursday, Air France said it anticipated a “slight improvement” in its traffic for Friday which would allow it to run more than 45 percent of its scheduled flights.
Air France is trying to boost its earnings by expanding Transavia but says that in doing so it is not trying to replace Air France.

The SNPL union has said its members are worried the company will abandon Transavia’s development in France, blaming them, and focus on its expansion elsewhere in Europe, moving jobs outside the country. Juniac said he had told pilots there would be a strict separation between Transavia’s French and European branches, with the latter not allowed to land in French cities where the former was operating.


Air France bracing for worst strike in 16 years as pilots walk out

Air France KLM
Air France KLM

Air France said it’s bracing for the most disruptive strike since 1998 today as pilots walk out over management plans to expand low-cost operations using flight crew paid less than at the mainline carrier.

The French arm of Air France-KLM Group, Europe’s biggest airline, expects to cancel 52 percent of services on the first day of an action due to run through Sept. 22. The dispute will cost 20 million euros ($26 million) a day in revenue, it said.

“We’re telling people who don’t absolutely have to travel to postpone their trip,” Air France Head of Operations Catherine Jude said yesterday in a briefing at the carrier’s Paris Charles de Gaulle airport base.

Pilots are staging the walkout as Air France-KLM Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac seeks to end decades of short-haul losses. Former Dutch charter unit Transavia will be further expanded into France with a fleet that could double in size, the company said last week, confirming plans that unions say will prompt job losses and pay cuts at the main airline.

This week’s action could have the biggest impact on travel at Air France since an eight-day strike 16 years ago over the French government taking the airline public, a dispute that involved 3,000 pilots and forced 75 percent of flights to be scrapped at a cost equivalent to $166 million now.

About 60 percent of pilots are expected to strike today and fewer in subsequent days, Jude said. The ability to cope with the walkout is limited, and pilots “who fly one aircraft can’t be substituted for another,” she said, declining to give a breakdown of likely long-haul and short-haul cancellations.

Air France’s SNPL union wants pilots across the company to be paid the same wages and to have the same working conditions. Jean-Louis Barber, the labor group’s president, said last week that it was still open to negotiating even as the strike loomed.

De Juniac said Sept. 11 that if pilots don’t accept the company’s strategy, the expansion of Transavia’s French unit may be put on hold. Flights could be added through a new Transavia Europe division that might be based elsewhere.

Transavia, with 41 planes carrying 8.9 million people spread across French and Dutch units, will have a fleet of 100 jets transporting more than 20 million people a year by 2017, according to the CEO’s plan, which parallels moves at Deutsche Lufthansa AG focused on the Germanwings discount brand.


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