Air France: Pilots’ strike cost us €500 million

Air France: Pilots' strike cost us €500 million
A strike by Air France pilots cost the country's flagship carrier upwards of €500 million. Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP
The bill for the longest strike in Air France's history could top €500 million company chiefs revealed on Wednesday. But with the image of France's national carrier in runs, the cost of the pilots' strike could be hard to put a figure on.

Struggling French flag carrier Air France on Wednesday said last month's two-week strike would have an impact of around €500 million on its bottom line for this year.

Taking into account the lost revenue during the strike and the knock-on impact of disgruntled passengers staying away in future, the impact over 2014 will be "in the order of €500 million" ($632 million), said financial director Pierre-Francois Riolacci.

"We need a few more days to finalise completely our estimates. But we think the impact on the third quarter will be in a range of 320-350 million euros," Riolacci said.

He warned the knock-on consequences were harder to put a figure on but said there would be an impact both on the last quarter of the year and the first part of next year as Air France, Europe's second-largest airline, battles to win back its reputation.

"We made some savings (like in aviation fuel) because the planes were not flying," he noted.

Air France has since launched an advertising blitz to, in Riolacci's words, "get people back into our planes." The cost of this campaign has been included in the €500 million estimate, he said.

Relations between management and the unions are still strained.

A crisis meeting on Tuesday to chart a way forward after the strike broke up shortly after starting.

SEE ALSO: Pilots strike leaves Air France's image in ruins

"On the other hand, we had additional costs: putting passengers up, compensation or buying tickets from our competitors for some of our passengers, which we did not always get at the best price," he said.

Pilots at Air France waged the longest strike in the company's history between September 15 and 28 in protest at the group's plans to expand its low-cost subsidiary Transavia France.

The airline sees the development of Transavia France as crucial to compete in the cut-throat world of aviation which has been revolutionised by the arrival of low-cost operators like easyJet and Ryanair.

But the pilots, some of whom earn up to €250,000 per year, were worried their flights could be replaced by Transavia services or that the company would seek to use the cheaper Transavia pilots.

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