• De Juniac has support of airline's board on seeking growth
  • Talks with unions going better, growth may still be feasible

Air France-KLM Group said it may still be able to grow, rather than shrink, if unions that rejected pay freezes and measures to boost productivity can reach an agreement soon with management that will avert cuts in fleet and headcount.

Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac told the board of directors Thursday that discussions with employee groups in recent days have been promising, following violence at an Oct. 5 staff meeting. He said it might still be possible to pursue earlier plans that would allow the airline to grow while bringing costs down. The board agreed, the airline said in a statement.

The upbeat message marks a potential turning point at the airline after more than a week of angry messages from unions first upset by talks of firings, and subsequently angered by the arrests of five employees who attacked Air France managers at the Oct. 5 works council meeting. Neither a spokesman for the SNPL, the largest pilot union, nor its president returned calls and text messages seeking comment after the airline’s declaration.

On Tuesday unions representing pilots, cabin attendants, and ground personnel banded together to declare a day of protest on Oct. 22 against the arrest of the employees, saying the workers held for questioning were being treated like “potential terrorists.”

“Air France, the jewel of French industry, is today in the midst of a crisis caused by the lack of a coherent vision on the part of its management,” the unions said Tuesday.

Air France’s human resources chief, Xavier Broseta, and long-haul flights head Pierre Plissonnier escaped last week’s clashes with their clothing in tatters after scaling a fence. Broseta later sent a video to frequent-fliers saying the violence didn’t reflect the airline’s “true face.” Since then, Broseta has been promoted to head of human relations at the parent company, and Gilles Gateau, formerly deputy director and adviser in the French prime minister’s office, has been named to head human resources and labor relations at Air France.

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