Air France staff caught up in Mali hostage drama

Twelve flight staff from Air France have been rescued safely from a hotel in Mali, where gunmen are currently holding a reported 170 hostages. Paris has sent an elite French unit to Bamako.

Air France staff caught up in Mali hostage drama
Security forces have surrounded the hotel in Bamako. Photo: AFP
Armed men on Friday took 170 people hostage at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the centre of Mali's capital, Bamako.
Twelve Air France staff were caught up in the drama and were apparently in the hotel at the time the gunmen stormed the building.
For a while their fate was uncertain but the airline has confirmed they have been safely rescued from the hotel. 

It remains unclear if the team, which was made up of two pilots and ten from the cabin crew, were actually taken hostage by the attackers or were in another part of the hotel.
Hostages who could recite from the Koran have been released, a security source told Reuters. 
The Malian security ministry has said that at least three hostages have already been killed, reported French newspaper Le Monde.
Le Point was reporting that one of those killed was French, but this has not been confirmed.
It remains unknown if other French people are inside the hotel at this point and how many.
Air France said that all flights to and from Bamako have been cancelled for Friday.
Paris has sent a team of elite commandos from the GIGN to Bamako.
Around 40 paramilitary police from the GIGN unit were on their way to assist Malian security forces dealing with a hostage situation at the Radisson Blu hotel, said a ministry spokesman.
The Twitter account of the paramilitary police posted a black-and-white image of the heavily-armed, black-clad troops upon their departure.



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.