Air France-KLM CFO Plans His Departure as New CEO Arrives

  • Riolacci to leave as airline faces off with pilots over costs
  • CFO to stay until November before joining site manager ISS

Air France-KLM Group Chief Financial Officer Pierre-François Riolacci announced he’s stepping down a week after a new CEO took charge, leaving the airline scrambling to find a successor amid tensions with French pilots over cost-cutting efforts. The stock dropped to a 3 1/2-year low.

Riolacci will leave the carrier in November to become CFO at Danish facilities manager ISS A/S, both companies said Friday in separate statements.

Pierre Francois Riolacci
Pierre Francois Riolacci
Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

The executive is departing Europe’s biggest airline in the midst of a reorganization that has prompted sometimes violent protests by pilots and other staff and a schism between its French and Dutch arms. Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Janaillac, a close ally of French President Francois Hollande with limited airline experience, took over the airline’s leadership at the beginning of July.

Riolacci will be the second CFO at a major European airline to exit this year, following the resignation of Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Simone Menne to join drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH. The German carrier has also been struggling with unions over cost-cutting measures, and Menne oversees catering, freight and maintenance units that are facing job cuts.

Air France fell as much as 4.2 percent to 5.43 euros, the lowest intraday price since October 2012, and was trading down 2 percent as of 9:56 a.m. in Paris. The shares have dropped 21 percent this year.

The French company returned to profit at an operating level for the first time in four years in 2015 thanks to a restructuring and lower fuel costs. Even so, earnings growth has been held back by resistance to cost cuts from pilots at the Air France brand. The airline said today that a four-day pilot strike last month reduced operating profit by 40 million euros ($44 million).

Janaillac’s predecessor as CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, left to run the airline trade group International Air Transport Association. He had been head of the group since mid-2013, and Riolacci joined from French utility and transport operator Veolia Environnement SA in December of that year.

“A reliable and transparent recruitment process will be implemented in the coming days to appoint a successor” to Riolacci, the airline said Friday, thanking the executive for his contribution to the group’s financial recovery.

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