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

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Pilots' strike leaves Air France's image 'in ruins'
Will passengers be avoiding Air France in the future? Photo: AFP
12:43 CEST+02:00
The crippling Air France pilots' strike that was called off on Sunday is said to have cost the airline some €300 million, but the angry reaction of air travellers means the cost of the two-week walk-out could be much, much more. Would you fly with them again?

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.

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.

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