• France's news in English

Pilots' strike leaves Air France's image 'in ruins'

Ben McPartland · 29 Sep 2014, 12:43

Published: 29 Sep 2014 12:43 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

With the two-week pilots’ strike finally over Air France chiefs have now been left to count the costs.

With around half of the carrier’s planes grounded for two weeks the figures put forward will have blood pressure soaring among Air France chiefs and shareholders alike.

The daily cost of the walk-out was estimated at €20 million with the overall price of the pilots’ strike suggested to be around €280 million.

As France’s L’Express newspaper points out, that’s the same price as three new Boeing 737 planes.

Then there’s the share price, which tumbled by 15 percent during the walk-out.

That’s not all. There’s also the compensation that needs to be paid out to the thousands of passengers whose travel plans were left in tatters by the pilots.

But even then the biggest financial cost of the strike may be immeasurable.

“Two flights cancelled in two days, vacation in tatters. I’m DONE with Air France and their pilots.”

This was just one tweet sent to The Local this week from an angry Air France passenger whose holiday was ruined due to the pilots’ strike.

This furious customer was not the only person to contact The Local to tell of their intention to choose any other airline but Air France in the future.

“I won’t be using Air France on my next trip,” said Pierre Hermes.

Join the debate about Air France on The Local's Facebook page

With so many passengers left furious and news of the strike making headlines around the globe the image of France’s national carrier may be damaged beyond repair.

This strike has left behind “a field of ruins” which “Air France will have to rebuild” Le Parisien newspaper states.

François Pottecher, spokesman for the union which represents pilots employed by Air France subsidiary Transavia said “it will take months to work out the fall-out of this conflict.”

The potential damage to Air France was summed up by a member of Air France staff who screamed at protesting pilots that all they were doing were helping rivals like British Airways.

Perhaps the most stinging comment came from Ryanair’s ever-provocative chief Michael O’Leary.

“With competitors like Air France, it’s not hard to see why Ryanair is the fastest-growing airline in Europe,” said O’Leary.

One of the chief problems facing Air France bosses is that the strike has ended but the dispute has not been resolved.

The only reason the action was called off was to “allow” calmer talks to go ahead over the contentious issue of the airline’s low-cost subsidiary Transavia.

While the Air France management agreed to scrap the development of Transavia abroad, it has vowed to maintain at least some part of its plans to enter the low-cost market.

If those talks fail to succeed and they haven’t come close to achieving a resolution after two weeks of constant negotiations, then passengers will fear further disruption in the future.

Story continues below…

That may be enough to prevent potential customers from going anywhere near the Air France reservations website.

Some in the business world have also suggested it’s not just the image of the country’s flagship carrier that has been harmed but France itself will also suffer.

“For those who want to invest or travel in France, this does not contribute, at an already extremely difficult time, to improving the image of the country,” said Jean-François Pillard from France’s leading business organisation MEDEF.

One reader of The Local suggested Pillard was not wrong.

"We are supposed to fly to CDG on Tuesday. If our vacation is ruined, not only will we never fly on Air France again, we won't visit France again. I've been to France enough already," said Lee Vincent.

Not all members of the public have been put off by the pilots’ strike, however. While some have commended the pilots for standing up for their rights, others say the airline will soon bounce back.

“It saddens me that people may have loss respect and loyalty for Air France. The airline will come back and come back stronger!” said Daphne Bloomer.

Only time will tell.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Homeless man dines at top tables in France, then runs off
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Photo: Jacme/Flickr

Move over Paris...

And France's top chef of the year is... 'Monsieur Idiot'
Alexandre Couillon might have an unfortunate name, but he can sure cook!. Photo: AFP

Look beyond the name. He's the man who turned his family's humble "moules frites" joint into one of France's best seafood restaurants.

Could France do more to ease the worries of 'Brexpats'?
Photo: AFP

Paris is rolling out the red tape for British firms, so why not British citizens in France?

Brexit: Brits in France could face 'cataclysmic' impact
Photo: AFP

Can't France make it easier for Britons to get French nationality?

In their own words: Why French police are in revolt
"Solidarity with our colleagues". Police protesting near Paris. Photo: AFP

Police have staged protests for three nights in a row across France. Here's why they say they're fed up.

France leaning right six months before election
Candidates for the right-wing Les Republicains Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

... and the left has been left in suspended animation.

Disgruntled French police stage protests for third night
Photo: AFP

The French government is struggling to deal with a revolt among the country's police force.

Scarlett Johansson to run Paris gourmet popcorn shop
Photo: AFP

She'll even be serving customers apparently.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
Want to drive a scooter around Paris? Here's what you need to know
jobs available