Air France grounds scores of flights on Tuesday due to strike

A strike by Air France staff will cause more travel misery for passengers on Tuesday with the airline announcing 30 percent of flights have been cancelled.

Air France grounds scores of flights on Tuesday due to strike

Tuesday marks the eighth day of industrial action by Air France staff since February and once again it will cause a travel headache for passengers. 

Air France announced on Monday that the airline would have to cancel around 45 percent of its long haul flights on Tuesday and flights will be hit around the country.

It also says it will have to ground 35 percent of medium-haul flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport as well as 20 percent of short-haul flights from Orly airport in Paris and airports around the country.

And for those passengers whose flights are not cancelled the company warns they can expect delays and disruption.

The strike action is being carried out by Air France pilots, cabin crew and ground staff. However despite the ongoing disruption the figures suggest the number of staff taking part in the industrial action is decreasing compared to previous strike days.

For example 29.6 percent of pilots will strike on Tuesday compared to 36.3 percent who took part last Wednesday.

Unions say workers deserve to benefit from years of belt-tightening that have brought the carrier back to operating profitability after seeing their wages effectively frozen since 2011.

They are calling for a 6 percent pay rise across the board and have rejected the management's offer of a one percent rise. Management returned with an offer of 2 percent from 2018 and a 3.6 percent rise between 2019 and 2021.

But the offer was not accepted by unions who are only looking for a deal for 2018.

Negotiations between unions and management took place once again on Monday but there is no sign the deadlock is being broken.

The airline has warned that the strikes are costing Air France €25 million each day, money the airline says it should be investing in buying planes and creating jobs.

Wednesday will also see Air France staff walk-out for a ninth day and April 23rd and 24th are also scheduled as strike days. More days of industrial action may yet be announced if an agreement cannot be reached.

The Air France industrial action coincides with rolling strikes by workers at the state rail operator SNCF, as well as protests by students, public servants, energy workers and rubbish collectors.

Although the various protests have different aims, they have created a general atmosphere of social discontent as President Emmanuel Macron pursues his ambitious reform drive.

Below is The Local's calendar for when it might be wise to avoid travel this Spring.



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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.