Airbus chief: ‘I no longer think like a Frenchman’

France needs to learn to love companies in the way the UK and the US does. That's the view of Fabrice Brégier, the CEO of France-based aviation giant Airbus, who spoke to The Local and other media on Thursday. Brégier says he is a Frenchman, but "no longer thinks like one".

Airbus chief: 'I no longer think like a Frenchman'
The top boss at Airbus says France needs to love its companies like Anglos do. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP

Airbus Group CEO and President Fabrice Brégier knows a few things about the gaps, gulfs and bridges between British, French and American working cultures and it has had a profound influence on him. 

He says he is French by birth "but no longer in his way of thinking." 

Brégier pilots a multinational group with 75,000 employees, though headquartered in Toulouse in the south of France, has operations everywhere from Miami to Beijing. Not surprisingly the company’s official language is English and its culture is a hodgepodge of influences from everywhere it operates.

'I am shocked when I see the behaviour of France'

During a talk with the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris on Thursday, Brégier told The Local and other media what the French could learn from Anglos and that attitudes in France towards business must change. 

"I am sometimes shocked when I come back here and I see France's behaviour. I’m not afraid to say it,” he said.

Brégier said his country has plenty of strong points, but a love for its businesses is not one of them.

"We are never business-friendly enough. Frankly I believe France has an enormous amount of strengths: geographically-speaking, the infrastructure and public services,” he said.

“But I think that France’s problem is that it needs to understand that it must love its companies. It’s not linked to taxes, it’s more on the societal level. Which is to say a Frenchman is not going to love business or the world of business, if we compare him with Anglos. It’s a handicap.”

(Bregier at a the Singapore Airshow in February (Roslan Rahman/AFP)

France’s mountains of bureaucracy and the hefty payroll charges have been on the radar of Socialist President François Hollande as he tries to boost support for business to help nudge the country out of its economic malaise.

Ministers and commentators have been sounding the alarm as young people are increasingly ditching France because they can’t find a job. In Brégier’s view, pushing entrepreneurship among recent graduates is one of the keys to restarting the country’s wobbling economy. 

“We must encourage young people to start their own companies in France, because there are too many going abroad," he said.

“They can start their career in the United States, the United Kingdom or elsewhere, but they also must eventually decide they can succeed by starting their own business in France. That is the battle. The total environment must be more favorable and we have to stop blaming those who create businesses. That is very different from the Anglo-Saxon world.”

'A mix of cultures makes us stronger'

One of the potentially contentious issues for employees multinational companies based in France revolves around language. Most French companies normally insist on French being the lingua franca of work, but not Airbus it seems.  

For Airbus workers the only official common tongue is Shakespeare’s language.

“Airbus’s language is English. I’m not going to tell you that when there are two French people in my office we speak in English, but we systematically speak English, emails are in English," Bregier said.

"My American and British colleagues have to constantly put up with bad English.”

Brégier sees the mix of cultures that has made English the company’s common language as a positive thing.

“This is an incredible strength. Merged together we are much stronger than being only French, all British or all American. I’m sure of it,” he said.

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Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis
An Airbus image showing what the taxis might look like. Photo: Airbus
Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.
But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.
The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.
“In 2010, for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in urban zones and we think we shall surpass 60 percent by 2030,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
The time had now come to vault up to “the third dimension” of local commutes — air, he said.
“If we have the conviction that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years low altitude is a space to be conquered we have to put in place the conditions today,” said ADP Group's executive director general Edward Arkwright.
VTOL converts are already sprouting in number as the world looks to move beyond — or rather, above — today's saturated motorways and growing environmental concerns.
Back on the ground, the view has been muddied by a delay beyond the Games, to 2025, of the express fast train designed to cut congestion and travel time between Charles de Gaulle airport and the city centre. 
For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, airport manager ADP and RATP, which manages Parisian public transport services, the Games are a chance to showcase French savoir-faire in urban mobility.
Multitude of projects
ADP has until the end of the year to choose a site for a “Vertiport” capable of hosting taxis from one of 10 aerodromes in the region around Paris.
The idea is to have the venue ready in 18 months, requiring infrastructure investment of some ten million euros ($11.3 million), says Arkwright. He adds the project will test out the link “via an existing helicopter corridor”.
Ideally, the service would see the taxis take off every six minutes.
In order to make VTOL a reality by 2024, ADP is working alongside Airbus, which has for some years been involved in full electric propulsion urban mobility schemes.
The manufacturer already has two prototype models — the single-seater “Vahana” and the four-seater variant “CityAirbus”.
Faury explained that “the two projects will converge towards a vehicle that will respond to first cases of use.”
“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop technological solutions, a product, a regulatory framework, an economic model,” Faury added.
'Important stage'
“This project reduces constraints not only in terms of infrastructure but also concerning air traffic as it involves experimenting in a specific (air) corridor,” said Jean-Louis Rassineux, head of aeronautics and defence issues for Deloitte. “It is large scale rollout which is going to be complicated,” Rassineux told AFP.
Along with required progress on battery power and anti-collision detection he said there were “constraints regarding compatibility and traffic regulation.” 
But there is also the issue of the extent to which the concept will gain widespread public acceptance.
Rassineux warned there would need to be “security levels as stringent as those for air traffic” as well as “real value added to existing transport” systems.
Deloitte estimates the size of the airborne taxi market at some $17 billion for the United States alone through to 2040.
Yet “there remains some way to go before a flying vehicle becomes integrated into urban transport,” cautioned France's transport minister, Elisabeth Borne.
Borne nonetheless sees moves towards creating an embryonic service in time for the 2024 games as “one of the important stages” towards “the emergence of a complete transport offering” which would be “integrated and which respects the environment”.