Air France pilots extend strike until 26 September
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00
Air France pilots have voted to extend their week-long strike over cost cuts and plans for the company’s Transavia unit by a further four days until Sept. 26, the head of the Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL) union said.
More than four-fifths of the 74% of pilots who took part in the ballot agreed to pursue the industrial action beyond the current deadline of Monday, said Jean-Louis Barber, head of the Air France section of the SNPL.
Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM Alexandre de Juniac (L) visits Air France check-in counters at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris on the third day of an Air France one-week strike September 17, 2014. The pilots carried out a week-long strike over the airline’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. REUTERS
“It could continue even further (beyond Sept. 26), given the very strong mandate,” Barber added, calling for a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to help resolve the conflict with management. Air France was to operate 45% of its flights on Saturday, based on an estimated 60% of the pilots walking out.The situation was expected to worsen on Sunday, with just 38% of flights going ahead - the lowest level since the strike began - and 65 per cent of pilots walking out, the airline said on Saturday.
The pilots are protesting 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. The expansion of Transavia is part of a new strategic plan unveiled this month aimed at boosting earnings. The proposals would see Transavia’s fleet rise to 100 jets by 2017, from about 50 now, and the number of passengers more than double to 20 million.
The company has said the idea is not to replace Air France but to complete its armoury to attack the leisure market. But the SNPL said it was concerned that Air France would abandon Transavia’s development in France altogether, blaming it on pilot opposition, and then focus on the unit’s expansion elsewhere in Europe, thus moving jobs outside the country.