Air France threatens to cut flights and workers

Air France's management ratcheted up pressure on workers to agree to a new restructuring plan, saying Friday the alternative is flight cuts and possible forced layoffs, union sources said.

Air France threatens to cut flights and workers
Photo: CpaKmoi/Flickr
Air France managed to reduce its workforce only through voluntary departures in its previous restructuring programme, but is now seeking to
agree another €1.8 billion ($2 billion) in cost savings as it comes under continued pressure from low-cost and Gulf carriers.
Management signalled “a 10 percent drop in long-haul routes” if no deal is reached soon, said three labour leaders who met with management.
The possibility of forced layoffs was also evoked, two labour leaders said.
No precise numbers were mentioned.
Unions expect that between 9 and 14 routes could be cut, with each plane employing around 350 people.
Air France's management denied in June media reports that 3,300 jobs could go.
The airline is seeking to reach agreement on the new restructuring plan by the end of September, according to labour leaders, or says it will go ahead with the plan to cut routes.
It also has to resolve a dispute with pilots under the previous restructuring programme that would see parts of their compensation cut.
The airline shed 9 percent of its workforce, or 6,413 employees, in 2012-2014 through voluntary departures and aims to entice another 800 to leave this year.
Nevertheless the airline has had trouble keeping up with competition, and an attempt last year to mount a major expansion of its low-cost unit sparked a costly strike by pilots that led management to backtrack.
Air France-KLM saw its losses deepen by 3 percent in the first half of this year to €638 million.

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Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.