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Air France pilots set for four-day strike after rejecting deal
Photo: AFP

Air France pilots set for four-day strike after rejecting deal

The Local/AFP · 9 Jun 2016, 16:29

Published: 09 Jun 2016 16:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Jun 2016 16:29 GMT+02:00

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  • Latest round of talks between management and unions fail
  • Air France spokesperson says for the moment strike is 'confirmed'
  • Too early to know of the exact impact on flights
  • Airline says 70 to 80 percent of medium and long haul flights will operate

LATEST: Air France cancels 20 percent of flights on Saturday

While the rail strikes have severely hampered train services in France and the bin strikes have kicked up a stink, the real threat to Euro 2016 comes in the form of a Air France pilots’ strike that will begin on Saturday after talks failed to find a compromise

Pilots unions including the two largest SPNL and SPAF have filed an official strike notice for the period of Saturday June 11th to Tuesday June 14th during which a two to four day strike is planned.

In a press conference on Thursday Air France chief executive Frédéric Gagey said that between 70 and 80 percent of medium and long haul flights would be guaranteed on Saturday, but that would still mean massive disruption to flights. 

"The first people to protect are our customers of course and they will find all the reliable information on our website in real time 24 hours before their flight," said Gagey.

Earlier the company said that it would have to start announcing the first cancellations of flights for the strike period. Text messages are to be sent out to passengers.

In a statement to The Local a company spokeswoman said: "Air France deplores the call for strike action confirmed by two pilot unions (SPAF and SNPL), for the period from 11 June to 14 June 2016, coinciding with the beginning of the Euro Soccer tournament that France is hosting.

"For Saturday 11 June 2016, Air France plans to operate 70 to 80% of its flights. This estimate will be confirmed tomorrow, Friday 10 June at the end of the morning."

'Air France regrets this situation and is doing everything it can to minimize the inconvenience caused to its customers."

The threatened strike has naturally got the company and the government flapping. Given that the last time pilots went on strike in the summer of 2014, hundreds of flights across Europe were grounded each day and the bill to company was up to €30 million a day.

But given that up to 2.5 million visitors are expected to descend on France for Euro 2016 a three-day strike could cause even more havoc.

Surely the government aren’t going to let it happen... are they?

Well at the moment it’s going ahead as planned and it seems there won't be an eleventh hour deal.

Hopes that the strike could be avoided were dashed on Thursday when unions rejected management's latest plan to find a way out of the crisis.

Air France says it will inform the Prime Minster of disruption to the football tournament and European football chiefs UEFA have asked Air France to ensure that all referees can get at least get to the matches.

There had been some positive signs coming out of the last ditch negotiations that are taking place between company chiefs and the unions.

On Wednesday night unions talked of “shared observations” with management, even though they said there were no clear commitments that would encourage them to lift the strike notice.

But unions also lamented the “vague promises” that have been made by management.

The strike is motivated by pay and the pilots’ battle to “defend their jobs” as competition increases from other Air France's budget subsidiaries like Hop! and Transavia.

Pilots are also worried that Air France is losing out to its partner KLM each year when it comes to long haul services. They want this balance put right.

But Air France chiefs have suggested they cannot meet the fundamental demands of the unions.

Story continues below…

So their only hope appears to be that a low number of pilots join the strike, which would keep the number of grounded flights to a minimum.

However the SNPL union spokesman warned: “There’ll be no problem on this issue, the mobilisation will be strong.”

The company says it will inform passengers when it has a clear idea of how serious the strike will be. By law they should be warned by unions 48 hours before the strike action.

"As soon as we have a precise estimation of the rate of the strike participation and the repercussions on our operations , our flight schedules will be adapted and published," said a statement on the airline's website.

Let’s hope you don’t get a text message from Air France in the next couple of days.

Then again the whole situation is reminiscent of 1998, when Air France pilots grounded planes for 10 days ahead of the football World Cup hosted by France and a last-minute solution was only found on the day the tournament begun.


The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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