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CRASH

Rio-Paris crash victims’ bodies return to France

The last salvaged bodies and wreckage from the Air France flight that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 arrived by boat in a French harbour on Thursday.

Rio-Paris crash victims' bodies return to France
ABr

The last salvaged bodies and wreckage from the Air France flight that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 arrived by boat in a French harbour on Thursday.

Back from a months-long mission dredging the depths of the ocean, the Ile-de-Sein salvage ship pulled into Bayonne harbour in southwestern France at dawn in the rain and fog, an APF reporter witnessed.

Authorities said it was carrying four containers – three with wreckage from the Airbus 330 plane and the last with remains of 104 of the 228 people killed in the crash, dredged from thousands of metres (yards) under the sea.

Authorities closed off the harbour to onlookers out of respect for the victims’ families. Officials said a short ceremony was planned when the bodies were unloaded.

The BEA aviation authority investigating the crash said the human remains will be transferred to a forensic mortuary for examination, and the plane wreckage to a hangar.

Rescue workers recovered 50 bodies in the days immediately after the crash.

More than 70 could not be retrieved in the two years of searching.

The plane crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. It took investigators until last month to salvage the black-box flight recorders from the wreck on the ocean bed.

According to information from the flight data recorders, released earlier by the BEA, the pilots saw conflicting speeds on their instruments as the plane stalled and fell into the sea.

The BEA is due to deliver a report in July on the causes of the crash.

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AIR FRANCE

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.

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