Air France pilots set for ‘massive’ strike

With negotiations sputtering, it’s looking increasingly likely that Air France pilots are going to carry out their threat of a “massive” walkout on Monday. Their unions have called for a week-long strike over re-organization plans.

Air France pilots set for 'massive' strike
Air France pilots are strike to strike on Monday. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

If you’re planning on taking an Air France flight next week, it may be time to start thinking about alternatives.

Pilots have said they will strike on Monday, unless Air France management finds a way to assuage their concerns over the company’s plans to hire hundreds of new pilots in coming years, who could have lower pay and benefits.

As the weekend approached things weren’t looking good. Air France said talks scheduled on Friday were cancelled, though the flagship French carrier insists the dialogue remains open with its pilots, French daily Le Parisien reported.

But union reps are already saying this could be the biggest pilots’ strike at the airline since 1998, which cost the company millions of euros. The legal deadline for their 48-hour strike notice is Saturday, which is when the size of the potential action will become clearer.

Though Air France has already started telling customers who’ve booked flights for next week that they cancel or exchange tickets at no cost, so the airline is clearly expecting trouble.

At issue is a plan by Air France to invest heavily in its low-cost carrier Transavia. The airline plans to grow the carrier’s fleet from its current 14 plane to 37 and hire 220-250 new pilots by 2019.

The unions want Air France to promise the new pilots will get the exact same pay and benefits as the existing workforce, but the airline has categorically refused to do that.

Instead the company’s CEO Alexandre de Juniac went on the offensive this week telling shareholders: “We are proposing new jobs, growth and new planes, striking against growth plans is inappropriate.”  

But not all the pilots unions are backing the strike. Those represented by SPAC Regional unions, who fly for Air France’s cheaper Hop! airline, have called for “breaking” the walkout, saying the Air France pilots are just trying to “maintain their caste.”

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