- Three long-haul flights canceled as 25% of pilots join action
- Travel disruptions to occur as Euro 2016 soccer tourney starts
Air France will maintain 90 percent of both domestic and long-haul flights Saturday, the beginning of a four-day pilots’ strike that threatens to hamper travel for fans attending the 2016 European soccer championship in the country.
Air France-KLM Group’s French arm confirmed it will cancel about 25 percent of scheduled medium-haul, or European, services on Saturday, the carrier said Friday at a briefing at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Three long-haul flights, to Osaka, Hong Kong and one of two flights to Tokyo, have been scrapped for that day, and the carrier warned there could be other last-minute cancellations. Services operated by Air France’s regional brand Hop! unit, sister company KLM and U.S. partner Delta Air Lines Inc. won’t be affected.
“We worked a lot to try to limit the impact of the strike,” Catherine Jude, Air France’s head of operations control, said at the briefing. “Air France remains mobilized to end this strike through the means of social dialogue.”
About 25 percent of pilots probably will strike on Saturday, the company said. The carrier will provide an update Saturday about the impact of the work action for the following days.
The planned four-day work stoppage is the second by the Paris-based airline’s pilots in two years and will cost the airline “tens of millions of euros,” Air France-KLM Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said last week. The shares fell 2.9 percent to 6.67 euros at 12:45 p.m. in Paris. The stock has dropped 5 percent this year, valuing the company at about 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion).
The strike also prompted the carrier’s KLM sister brand to take the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing it as “destructive.” The strike starts a day after the Euro 2016 opening game on Friday between France and Romania. The tournament’s final is slated for July 10 in Paris.
The Air France pilots are protesting the carrier’s imposition of more work hours for no additional pay. Another point of dispute is the employees’ push for the airline to order 26 long-haul planes to ensure that the fleet is ready for capacity growth. Unions’ demands would require an 11 percent jump in the pilot payroll, currently at about 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion), Gilles Gateau, the carrier’s head of personnel, said yesterday.
The airline normally operates more than 1,000 flights a day.
In contrast to the Air France pilots, whose 2014 strike cost the company about 500 million euros in lost revenue, the full range of employees at Amsterdam-based KLM have reached agreements on spending-reduction measures without halting work.
The strike is part of a long-running dispute that has limited Air France’s ability to make changes to keep pace with lower-cost rivals. Hostilities were heightened after the airline won a court challenge to the extra work-hours requirement. The measures went into effect on June 1.
Other airlines, including discount carriers Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, have already planned additional flights to France during the tournament.